The First Season preview will be courtesy of VBL Southern Correspondent Jackson Hephner. Jackson joins the VBL after serving as the Sports Editor for the Breeze this past year at James Madison University. Jackson brings a wealth of knowledge and dedication to the VBL and will be covering Waynesboro, Charlottesville, and Covington (mainly), but may branch out to other teams as the season progresses. Welcome to the VBL team Jackson!
Matty Holem was named manager of the Generals on January 3. This is his first season in the Valley League but his twelfth in college summer baseball, having previously coached in the Expedition Baseball League, Ohio Valley League, Northwoods League, Cornbelt League and the Jayhawk League. Holem said that as a coach, he likes to play small ball and steal plenty of bases. He hopes to bring that fast style of play to Waynesboro and use it to build off of the team’s past successes.
Holem highlighted a number of players on this year’s roster that he is excited about. Maryland Eastern Shore’s Alex McCoy will be joining the Generals this season, with Holem saying that he “hits like a deer.” Mid-Atlantic Christian University’s Jalyn Lee will also be adding his power hitting skills to Waynesboro’s lineup after winning the 2023 USCAA Homerun Derby in May with 17 total HRs.
In the bullpen, the Generals added Connor Hensley, a redshirt freshman pitcher from Seminole State College who Holem said figured things out last season, and Jaxson Lucas, a junior from Arkansas at Pine Bluff who Holem has watched grow as a pitcher in the past.
Overall, Holem said he wants his team to not only achieve on the field but be involved with the community off of it.
“We’re gonna set the standard pretty high,” Holem said, “not only on the field but with the things we do off the field.”
Last year’s champions return to the diamond with a new manager — Lyndon Coleman, a former Valley League player who won a Championship with the Covington Lumberjacks in 2011. Coleman has experience coaching in the Valley League, joining the Winchester Royals as a pitching coach in 2015 before acting as manager from 2016-17, compiling a 43-41 record and two consecutive playoff appearances in his two seasons.
“I’m excited to be in Charlottesville,” Coleman said. “I’m excited to be back in summer collegiate baseball. I’m excited to be a part of a winning organization that has done a fantastic job over the past five or six years taking care of players and winning baseball games.”
Coleman said he chose to make his Valley League return with Charlottesville due to its history. Not only have the Tom Sox won three championships in its eight year history, but Coleman says they’ve gained a great reputation with major schools and have taken care of players well. He added that Charlottesville’s success across the organization on and off the field is “what makes Charlottesville tick.”
“When you develop a system and you develop a culture, it’s just a rinse-and-repeat system and a rinse-and-repeat culture,” Coleman said.
As for this year’s roster, Coleman said that the entire roster has plenty of talent, and that he couldn’t single out any two or three players because “it wouldn’t do justice to the other 33 or 32 on the roster that should use recognition as well.”
Head coach Renny Tolentino is set to return to the Lumberjacks this season, but as of now he’s the only returning face in the dugout from last season as of now aside from the leadoff hitter, Mike Pavelchick. The rest of the roster and coaching staff will be new to Covington this season, and Tolentino said to expect a lot of offense from this year’s squad.
Nicklas Williams will be joining the Lumberjacks this year from Wabash Valley College, where he’s currently hitting .460. Jace Rineheart will also be adding some power to the lineup. He is currently hitting .304 at USC Upstate. On the mound, Tolentino said to expect a lot of young guys. He highlighted one pitcher who will be coming to Covington with some experience — Jorge Garcia, a sophomore from Atlantis University who had a 2.15 ERA this past season. As for the rest of the bullpen, Tolentino said that he’ll have to see how much his pitchers have thrown this past collegiate season. Overall, Tolentino said that he’s getting ready to get up to Covington and get the ball rolling.
Southern VBL Correspondent
Valley Baseball League