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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.
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