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By Leyton Pullin
The Grottoes Cardinals had a less than stellar finish to 2019 losing their last nine en route to a league worst 9-19 record but General Manager and former head coach Bobby Swink seemed optimistic when talking about what 2020 had to offer. “We got kinda like a ‘Core Four’ that have been here since I started here which is Jacob Merica, Dylan Nicely, David Wood, and Keegan [Woolford]… they’ve all played prominent roles in my three years here.” Woolford returns from a season a year ago where he topped the RCBL hitting charts with a .484 batting average, 4 home runs, and 26 runs batted in. Woolford comes off a COVID-19 shortened season at Shenandoah University in which he only played 12 games but had 5 homeruns 20 RBIs and was hitting a solid .463 making him definitely on of the players to watch in 2020. Living up to their nickname the rest of the “Core Four” aren’t too shabby either with EMU’s Jacob Merica coming off of a solid 17 game season with the Royals where he hit his first career homerun, Dylan Nicely comes off a 2019 season in which he knocked in 23 runs, and David Wood who had a stellar 2019 at the plate as well hitting .422.
When asked about some new additions to the veteran lead ball club Swink said their focus was right up the middle, “We’ve been trying to get stable up the middle on the infield for the last couple of years and we’ve got a couple of guys we feel like can help with that.” Swink mentioned former Wilson Memorial talent Gage Wood coming from Ferrum and Bridgewater Eagle Isiah Blanks. Both Blanks and Wood just finished their freshman year at their respective ODAC institutions both not getting much playing time due to the shortened season. Another name Swink mentioned was the return of another Bridgewater Eagle Tucker Garrison a left-handed pitcher out of Spotswood High School who made four appearances for the Eagles and put up a 3-0 record with 14 punchouts. The last name Swink mentioned was that of Cam Irvine who had been with the team previously but is set to make his return to the red and black this summer.
The biggest change for the Cardinals this year won’t be the plethora of young talent coming in but the change at the manger position as Tim Nicely will take over for now General Manager Bobby Swink. Swink had high praises for Nicely as he was his assistant for the past three seasons. Nicely, a former Grottoes Cardinal himself, played college baseball at Bridgewater College and is a local baseball figure when it comes to Grottoes as he owns The Batting Cave indoor baseball facility in Grottoes.
Nicely and the Cardinals will open their season with a double header at Montezuma as they’ll square off with the Braves starting at 5pm on June 27.
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