2017 Valley League playoff preview
Matchups have been set for the 2017 Valley League playoffs. In a league that hasn’t seen a team sitting more than one game out of first place make the finals since 2014 (Charles Town), the favorites may seem clear. The division leaders (Purcellville and Charlottesville) have remained unchanged since early in the season, and the league-leading Tom Sox still have a strong roster in town with a 32-10 mark.
At the same time, fourth-seeded Winchester joins Charlottesville as the hottest team in the league over the past 13 games (10-3), and defending finalists Waynesboro and Strasburg lurk in the #3 spots.
All series will be best-of-three games and will begin on Saturday, July 29. Semifinal and championship rounds will begin as soon as the previous series are completed, without off days in between.
NORTH DIVISION QUARTERFINALS
Purcellville Cannons (26-16) vs. Winchester Royals (21-21)
Game 1: Winchester at Purcellville, Sat. July 29, 7:00 PM
Game 2: Purcellville at Winchester, Sun. July 30, 7:00 PM
Game 3: Winchester at Purcellville, Mon. July 31, 7:00 PM (if necessary)
Despite losing several key bats throughout the season, the Cannons have been at the top of the division throughout behind infielder Trevin Esquerra (.362, 8 HRs, 33 RBIs) and pitcher Thomas Sutera (6-0, 1.57 ERA, 3 saves). Winchester won eight straight games last week, and features one of the league’s most talented hitters in Cody Wilson (.336, .426 OBP, 6 triples, 23 RBIs).
New Market Rebels (24-17) vs. Strasburg Express (22-19)
Game 1: Strasburg at New Market, Sat. July 29, 7:30 PM
Game 2: New Market at Strasburg, Sun. July 30, 7:00 PM
Game 3: Strasburg at New Market, Mon. July 31, 7:30 PM (if necessary)
New Market grabbed second place with a midseason winning streak and is tough on the mound with Alec Aleywine (4-0, 3.82 ERA) and Nate Pawelczyk (3-0, 0.55 ERA, 3 saves) and seven regulars batting over .300 with multiple RBIs, including Jacob Rhinesmith (.369, 33 RBIs) and Aleywine himself (.314, 33 RBIs).The two-time defending champion Express have been uncharacteristically inconsistent this summer. But a team with an offense that has scored double-digit runs five times since July 10 and a rotation including 2017 All-Star Zach Peek (4-1, 1.80 ERA, 40 Ks) and 2016 All-Star Benjamin Dum (5-2, 2.77 ERA, 39 Ks) will be tough to knock out.
SORTH DIVISION QUARTERFINALS
Charlottesville Tom Sox (32-10) vs. Staunton Braves (19-23)
Game 1: Staunton at Charlottesville, Sat. July 29, 7:00 PM
Game 2: Charlottesville at Staunton, Sun. July 30, 7:30 PM
Game 3: Staunton at Charlottesville, Mon. July 31, 7:00 PM (if necessary)
The Tom Sox put together one of the best regular seasons in recent VBL history, including infielders Michael Wielansky (.432, 67 hits, 34 RBIs) and Vinnie Pasquantino (.336, 4 HRs, 30 RBIs) and a deep pitching staff that includes D-III standouts Sean McCracken (2-0, 1.65 ERA, 27 K’s), Rick Spiers (4-0, 0.78 ERA, 27 K’s) and Joe Burris (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 saves). Staunton had a very talented roster led by Max Wood (.390, 5 HRs, 21 RBIs), but has been hurt by recent injuries/early departures of four VBL Showcase All-Stars including ace Deacon Medders along with Antwaun Tucker, Michael Higgins and Daniel Rivero.
Harrisonburg Turks (21-21) vs. Waynesboro Generals (20-22)
Game 1: Waynesboro at Harrisonburg, Sat. July 29, 7:30 PM
Game 2: Harrisonburg at Waynesboro, Sun. July 30, 7:00 PM
Game 3: Waynesboro at Harrisonburg, Mon. July 31, 7:30 PM (if necessary)
After a slow start, Harrisonburg stormed back to earn the #2 seed in the South for a third straight year. Outfielder Ty Andrus (.348, 54 hits, 29 runs scored) has been on fire this month, while Mason Studstill is 4-0 in six starts on the mound. Defending South pennant winners Waynesboro struggled down the stretch, losing 12 of their last 15 games. Outfielder McClain Bradley bats .359 with 14 extra base hits on the year.