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College  | Story  | 8/6/2012

Valley League: Top performers

Kendall Rogers     

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Barring some major surprises, most collegiate summer leagues are very much pitching oriented with some sprinkles of offense.

The Valley League is the exception to the norm. Though many pitchers experience success during the summer, the VBL showcased a lot of quality offensive firepower, while this year's crop of elite pitchers was light.

The summer league completed its season last week, with the Harrisonburg Turks capturing the championship with a series win over Winchester. Ironically, the Turks led the league with a 4.05 ERA and finished fifth offensively with a .277 batting average.

Perhaps no pitcher this summer was most impressive than La Salle left-hander Shawn O'Neill. O'Neill made 16 appearances and started four games. He had a 1.40 ERA in 64 1/3 innings and notched five saves. He also limited teams to a very low .229 batting average.

On the offensive side, it's hard not to go with Western Carolina's Julian Ridings, who batted a league-best .419 and finished 23 points higher in the batting average department than No. 2 hitter, Radford's Blake Sipe.

We take an inside look at the top performers at the Valley League.


OF Julian Ridings, Western Carolina -- After hitting .331 for the Catamounts last season, Ridings put together an impressive summer at the Valley League. He batted .419 with 14 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 39 RBIs. He also slugged .657 and had a .454 OBP. He's an athletic and talented player to watch nationally in 2013.

OF Blake Sipe, Radford -- Here's a guy who could be destined for a big step forward for the Highlanders next season. After hitting just .191 in a limited number of at bats in the spring, Sipe followed that up with a strong summer. He batted .396 with 11 doubles, 26 RBIs and a .516 OBP. 

INF Robby Campbell, South Alabama -- Campbell hit .307 in 114 at bats last season for the Jaguars, and could be ready for an even bigger '13 campaign. This summer, he batted. 387 with 10 doubles, five homers and 24 RBIs, finishing third in the Valley League from an offensive standpoint. He also had an impressive .437 OBP and only struck out 10 times.

OF Ryan Sullivan, Seton Hall -- What a transformation Sullivan made this summer at the Valley League. After hitting just .230 this past spring, he had a sensational summer, batting .375 with nine doubles, 10 homers and 44 RBIs. He also slugged .676, had a .516 OBP, and most impressive, walked 42 times with just 22 strikeouts.

INF Caleb Palensky, Nebraska-Omaha -- Palensky didn't have a great 2012 campaign for the Mavericks, hitting .250 with just 17 RBIs, but really rose to the occasion this summer. He batted .371 with 11 doubles, four triples and 26 RBIs. He also had a .444 OBP and had a 23:19 walk-strikeout ratio.

1B Brad Picha, Lamar -- Picha continued where he left off in the spring with the Cardinals with a strong summer at the Valley League. He batted .320 with 17 doubles in the spring. This summer, he hit .370 with 14 doubles, 12 homers and 36 RBIs. He also had a very solid .441 OBP.

1B/3B Jimmy Yezzo, Delaware -- The talented infielder has established himself as a very consistent college player. This past spring, he batted .358 with eight homers and 46 RBIs. He continued his successful ways this summer, batting .362 with 21 doubles, 16 homers and 62 RBIs. He also slugged .679.

SS/2B Leo Rojas, Alabama State -- Rojas had a tough 2012 campaign with just a .238 batting average, but blossomed this summer at the VBL. He batted .357 with 14 doubles, two triples, seven homers and 34 RBIs. He also showed off some serious speed on the base paths, going 11-for-13 in stolen bases.

UT Jacob Hoyle, Western Carolina -- Catamounts head coach has to be ecstatic with the way Ridings and Hoyle performed this summer. Hoyle had a solid summer at the plate after hitting over .300 this past spring. This summer, he batted .348 with 11 doubles, seven homers and 38 RBIs. Hoyle must cut down on strikeouts after having a 50:9 strikeout-walk ratio.

OF Brandon Murray, College of Charleston -- It shouldn't come as a surprise Murray excelled this summer. He batted .330 with 12 homers and 42 RBIs for the Cougars this past spring. He also had a great summer, hitting .344 with five doubles, 13 homers and 41 RBIs.

LHP Shawn O'Neill, La Salle -- O'Neill didn't pitch this past season for the Explorers, but put together quite an impressive summer at the VBL. He made 16 appearances, making four starts and had a 1.40 ERA in 64 1/3 innings of work. He also struck out 69 and walked 25, while teams hit him at a .229 clip.

RHP Dillon Ortman, Auburn -- Ortman tallied a very respectable 3.20 ERA for the Tigers last season. He also put together a strong summer at the VBL, going 7-2 with a 2.26 ERA in 63 2/3 innings of work. He struck out 50 and walked 12, while teams hit him at a .196 clip.

LHP Zach Bargeron, West Virginia -- Bargeron had an earned-run average of 4.35 for the Mountaineers last season, but could be ready to take a big step forward in new coach Randy Mazey's first campaign. He started eight games and had a 2.70 ERA in 50 innings. He also struck out 50 and walked 12.

RHP Seth Lucio, Tennessee Tech -- The VBL was offense heavy this summer, but Lucio, who had an ERA over six last season, still managed to take a big step forward. He made 11 appearances, eight starts and had a 3.27 ERA in 52 1/3 innings of work. He also struck out 56 and walked 18, while teams hit him at a .256 clip.

RHP John Williams, George Mason -- Williams had an earned-run average over five for the Patriots last summer, but what a step forward he took this summer. He made 11 appearances, 10 starts and had a 3.67 ERA in 61 1/3 innings. He also struck out 56 and walked 15, while teams hit him at a .257 clip.

RHP Mike Volpe, Towson -- Few pitchers have shown as much improvement this summer as Volpe. After tallying a rough ERA over eight for the Tigers this past spring, he blossomed this summer, tallying a 3.75 ERA in 50 1/3 innings of work. He also struck out 52 and walked 12, while teams hit him at a .253 clip.

RHP Alex Boshers, Tennessee-Martin -- Boshers is another pitcher who has shown some improvement this summer. He had a rough ERA eight in the spring, but had a 4.86 ERA in 53 2/3 innings this summer. Most impressive is the fact he had a 47:14 strikeout-walk ratio, with teams hitting him at a .299 clip.

RHP Ben Carlson, Furman -- Carlson tallied an ERA over seven for the Paladins this past spring, but he has shown some signs of improvement this summer. Despite having just a 5.72 ERA in 50 1/3 innings, what's impressive about the righty is that he had a 46:3 strikeout-walk ratio.

RHP Ryan Mayhew, UNC Wilmington -- The right-handed pitcher worked just one inning for the Seahawks last season, but perhaps he's ready to make a statement in 2013 for Mark Scalf's club. He made 12 appearances this summer and had a 5.17 ERA in 15 2/3 innings. Most impressive is the fact Mayhew struck out 31 and walked 11, with teams hitting him at a .250 clip.