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Bucks look to bounce back in 2021
The Clover Hill Bucks will hope to return to the RCBL Championship series in 2021 after an early exit in last year’s quarterfinals. The Bucks were swept by the Bridgewater Reds after beating them for the 2019 league title, finishing the season 13-11.
To win in 2021, the Bucks will need to be able to get on base. Last season, Clover Hill led the league in walks (144), placed third in RBIs (140), and was fourth in total runs scored (154). The Bucks will be led by Tyler Bocock, who excelled from the plate and the mound for Clover Hill last year. Bocock led the team in hits (25), home runs (5), runs scored (21), RBIs (21), and walks (23) last season. His 23 walks in the regular season were the most in the league. Bocock, a 2015 graduate of Stetson University, also had a 2.93 ERA and 16 strikeouts. This will be his third season as a Buck. Head coach Kevin Chandler says he will rely on Bocock to contribute.
“I expect Tyler to be Tyler, he is always ready and will give 100%,” Coach Chandler said. “He wants to win and will do anything to help the team do that.”
Shortly before last season, Clover Hill head coach Chris Cofer passed away at 46. Cofer was a staple in the Bucks community, having previously played for the Bucks before winning two RCBL titles in just five seasons as the manager. He was replaced by Chandler, who will be returning for his second year as Clover Hill’s head coach. Chandler has played for the Bucks since 2007, only missing the 2011 season to play in the Valley Baseball League.
While Chandler made three appearances last season and posted a 3.85 ERA, he does not intend to spend much time on the field after transitioning to his new role as skipper.
“I would like to leave it to the younger players, we have some talented young players this year and I'm excited to see them play and grow,” Chandler said.
Clover Hill had a solid season on the mound last year, tying Broadway for the fewest wild pitches (6), third fewest runs allowed (143), third fewest hit-by-pitch (18), and the fourth fewest hits allowed (193). LHP Eric Yankey will return for his fourth year with the Bucks. Last season, Yankey led Clover Hill in strikeouts (31) and saves (2). His two saves tied New Market’s Calvin Pastel for the most in the RCBL Regular Season. He will be joined by former Bridgewater College pitchers Tyler Conley and Nick Corbin, who had the third and fourth best ERAs on the Bucks last season at 0.81 and 2.49, respectively.
The Bucks will open the 2021 season on the road at the Grottoes Cardinals on June 5 at 7:30 PM. The next evening, they will host the Bridgewater Reds at the same time for their home opener at Buck Bowman Park. This game will also be a rematch of last year’s RCBL quarterfinals. Clover Hill will host six of their first nine games. The Bucks will play ten games at home and eleven on the road.
By Olivia Carson
In the summer of 2020, the Braves finished 6th in regular season with a record of 8-13 and were not able to make it past the first round of the playoffs. Going into his third year with Montezuma, Head Coach Chris Rush has high hopes for his team moving forward in the upcoming season.
Because of the current and ongoing global pandemic, high school and college sports seasons were pushed back and Rush has been unable to see some of his players practice with the team. With this being said, he does not seem to be worried and has high expectations for some of his new incoming players.
The Braves are looking to welcome about 10-12 new names to their roster this season. Rush named three college level players who he expects to be very impactful in the RCBL.
“We added Hunter Clever, he is a utility player at Bridgewater. He was a pretty impactful player in their playoff run, he got a win and a save as a pitcher in their first round games against Roanoke,” says Rush. Also mentioned were outfielders Jakob King from Mary Baldwin and JT Stevenson from Allegany College of Maryland who Rush believes will be a great addition to the Braves team.
Looking back at the 2020 season, Rush is aware that pitching might be the Braves biggest challenge with the limited roster spots that they have. This season, Montezuma will focus on making sure they have a good group of guys coming out of the bullpen.
“If anything last year that was a little bit of our issue was being up in the game or a really close game getting into the 6th or 7th inning and then not having enough guys [that are able] to come out of the pen that could throw strikes or get us outs,” says Rush.
The Braves have quite a few returning and experienced players who have the potential to make a major impact in the league this season. First, is Keegan Oliver who is a pitcher that graduated from Bridgewater College. Based on Oliver's career at Bridgewater, Rush is excited to see what he can do and expects him to be a very fun player to watch.
Other key returning players are going to include a long time utility player for the Braves, Kyle Armstrong and Michael Robertson who was named the male athlete of the year at Mary Baldwin this past season. Gavin Rush is also returning and will be a player to look out for in the middle infield, outfield as well as at the plate.
Other than mask mandates, schedule changes, and delayed seasons, Coach Rush seems to think this season will be very close to being back to normal.
The Braves will be facing the Bridgewater Reds at Montezuma Ruritan Park on Saturday June 5 for their first matchup of the 2021 season.
By Leyton Pullin
The Grottoes Cardinals saw their shortened 2020 season come to an end in the semifinal round to the eventually runners up New Market Shockers.
The Cardinals ended up with a final regular season record of 12-9 that placed them third overall in the end of the year standings.
The Cardinals relied heavily on their offense led by the big bat of Keegan Woolford and the always consistent Dylan Nicely, both of whom are slated to return to the red and black this season.
Woolford is coming off of a successful 2021 campaign at Shenandoah University where they finished runners up in the ODAC Championship Series to Lynchburg. Woolford led the ODAC in homeruns (14) and was second in RBI (57).
Dylan Nicely returns to Grottoes after a successful season in 2020 as he was among the top ten in batting average with a .403.
Along with Nicely and Woolford the other two members of General Manager Bobby Swink’s “Core Four” are set to return for the Cardinals this year. Jacob Merica will be back in Grottoes this season and will look to make his presence felt as one of the quickest players in the league. Merica found himself among the ODAC leaders in triples (No. 6) in the 2021 campaign while at Eastern Mennonite University.
The final member of the “Core Four” is David Wood who returns to Grottoes and will look to continue his success he has had while playing for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals are also set to return two players that did not play at all in 2020 but were former members of the team, Eli Lam and Josh Pittman. Lam was sidelined for the 2020 season due to injuries suffered due to a car accident but played this spring for Patrick Henry Community College. Pittman was sidelined due to an undisclosed injury and had to sit out last season but will be back in Grottoes this summer.
Manager Tim Nicely is back for his second year at the helm for the Cardinals after a successful rookie campaign. Nicely did not reveal any names of the new comers to the team but did say they expect two or three new pitchers and position players that have not been in the organization before.
The Cardinals will open their season on opening night as they host Clover Hill on June 5.
By Dean Barker
The New Market Shockers will return to the field in 2021 hoping to avenge their loss in last year’s RCBL finals. The Shockers were swept by the Broadway Bruins to conclude a 19-13 season. It was their first championship series appearance under head coach Nolan Potts, who will return for his eighth straight season with the Shockers: two as a player, three as an assistant coach, and three as a head coach.
A key to last year’s success was the Shockers’ offense. New Market was first in the RCBL in triples (7) and second in hits (207). Returning for the Shockers is rising junior infielder Pearce Bucher. Bucher was a key to New Market’s success last year, with a total of 39 hits, 20 runs scored, and 21 RBIs. This college season has been his best at Shenandoah University. So far, he is hitting .380 with 62 hits, 38 RBIs, and 18 walks, which has earned him two ODAC Player of the Week awards.
The Shockers’ pitching staff was also stellar last season. New Market led the league in fewest walks allowed (88), were second in runs allowed (123), earned runs (96), and hits allowed (164). They will be helped by LHP Darrell Thompson, who is returning for his second season with New Market. Last year, he led the team in strikeouts with 123, going 3-1 with a 2.37 ERA. The 2016 Shenandoah graduate threw five complete games last season, winning three and getting the no-decision in two. Coach Potts says that the defense will be key to getting back to the finals this year.
“I think we’ll do a good job offensively since most of our guys have seen a ton of live pitching this spring, but our pitchers have to throw strikes and our defense has to make plays in the field behind them,” Potts said.
While the Shockers have players from multiple schools, one school is contributing far more than others. The Shenandoah Hornets account for 15 of the 25 players on New Market this season. This is not new for the Shockers. Last year, the Shockers had 19 current Hornets and four graduates of SU. The 2019 team had 13 current SU players and two Hornet grads. It would seem that the team will have little trouble bonding.
In addition to familiarity, the Shockers will have the benefit of a competitive Shenandoah team. At 31-11 (17-5), the Hornets are ranked #2 in the NCAA Division 3 South Region, and competed in game three of the ODAC Championship series. Despite an impressive season, Shenandoah did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Had the Hornets been in the NCAA Tournament on opening day, it would have left the team with only ten players: two pitchers, a catcher, five infielders, and two outfielders. While no NCAA Tournament means that the Shockers’ roster will not take a hit on opening day, Coach Potts was still disappointed that most of his players, and his alma mater, did not get a bid.
“I would’ve been thrilled if they got in and made a postseason run, even if it would’ve hurt us in terms of the number of players available for the first weekend of the RCBL season,” Potts said.
The Shockers will kick off the season at Rebel Field, hosting a rematch of last year’s RCBL Finals against Broadway at 7:30 PM. The next evening, New Market will rematch last year’s quarterfinals at the Elkton Blue Sox at the same time. The Shockers will host 10 games and play the remaining 11 on the road.
By Olivia Carson
Coming off an incredible season of earning the 2020 RCBL Championship, the Broadway Bruins are ready to be back in action this summer. The team carried their momentum from their 2019 playoff quarter round series win to achieve a championship the next year. The Bruins coaching staff hopes to hold that confidence into the upcoming 2021 season.
Second year team manager, Chip Abernathy is excited for another season with the Bruins as he thoroughly enjoyed the team atmosphere and work ethic that he noticed during his first summer as the manager.
The Bruins are gaining around fifteen new players this season that will help to create a younger and more newly experienced team in the league. With this in mind, Abernathy still has the confidence that the Bruins will bring quite some competition in order to regain the RCBL championship trophy.
While the Bruins have lost some veteran players, Abernathy hopes to build the new team around experienced returning players like Cole Holsinger, Natty Solomon and Trent Abernathy who have made major marks with the team so far in their careers.
“I think replacing some of the players that have moved on will be a big challenge,” says Abernathy. Key players from previous seasons such as John Judy and Tyler Ault will not be returning to play with the Bruins for the summer of 2021. Getting new and younger players to step up into their roles will be important to keep the teams momentum moving forward.
With the coronavirus pandemic still spreading and affecting athletes around the world, each RCBL team will continue with a condensed schedule of 21 games in about two months. Abernathy does not seem to think COVID-19 will have as much of an impact on the season when compared to last year.
“We are going to pretty much play the same type of season we played last year so we’ve all had a year at it...we know the day in and day out of playing that much through the week,” says Abernathy. The league knows what to expect from last season and the Bruins should not have a problem getting used to the tightly packed schedule that they have coming up this summer.
Abernathy hopes that his team and the rest of the league can get through this season and that everyone stays safe.
Broadway will start their 2021 season when they face the New Market Rebels on Saturday, June 5 at Rebel Park.
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