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By Adam Harnish
The 2019 season for the Elkton Blue Sox ended with the team just one win away from earning a spot in the championship. This year, the Blue Sox are looking to continue their 2019 success and establish themselves as one of the top teams in the RCBL. The team will look fairly different, however, as several big changes are being made for the upcoming season.
First and foremost, longtime manager Dave Loker is stepping down from his post, to be replaced by none other than his son, longtime RCBL slugger JJ Loker. In his first season as manager, the junior Loker is feeling good about the Blue Sox’s roster.
“We plan to compete with everybody,” Loker said. “We can compete with [teams like] Clover Hill, we think we’re gonna be just as good as them...we think it’s going to be a very competitive season.”
The second big change the Blue Sox will experience is a dramatic roster overhaul. RCBL teams will swell to up to 30 players in this shortened season, and for Elkton, over half of those 30 guys will be playing their very first season in the RCBL. Loker credits this huge wave of new players to local leagues shutting down for the year.
“There’s a lot of people who want to come up for the summer, who were scheduled to play in other summer leagues...they want to get some reps in, and [the RCBL] is the only place to do it!”
With those factors in mind, the Blue Sox roster is shaping up to be very intriguing. Anchored by aces Kris Lalk and Jacob Rich, pitching should be a strength for the team. Lalk, the RCBL 2018 Pitcher of Year, will be the top dog of the pitching staff. He posted an impressive statline in the regular season last year (5-0, 3.00 ERA, 56 K in 30 IP). Rich, for his part, won two victories in both of his playoff starts last year, earning a 1.18 ERA in 15.2 innings against the top two teams in the league.
Additionally, the team is adding two starting pitchers from Lynchburg College, in addition to former Blue Sox pitcher RJ Payne, and several of the top arms from the D2 university Lenoir-Rhyne in North Carolina.
Their pitching depth will be crucial in a shortened, jam-packed season. The Blue Sox are slated to play 21 games in one month, which will not only affect the pitching, but also the hitting. Many new faces will be contending for at-bats, so Loker expects there to be competition to make his starting lineup.
“It’s going to be challenging to get everybody in there, but if you’re a guy who can play the field, hit and pitch, that’s going to be vital for us this season,” Loker explained. “I’m gonna move guys around so we can see what everybody can do, so whoever earns their stripes will take the job.”
The Blue Sox finished in 7th place in the regular season last year, but with a revamped roster, the team has their eyes set on climbing higher and establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with.
With all the new twists and turns for the upcoming season, many RCBL fans are wondering just how everything will shape up. For new manager JJ Loker, however, his priorities for the Blue Sox’s season are crystal clear. When asked about what the team’s goal was for this summer, Loker had a simple answer. “To win a championship.”
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