– By Madison Hricik
Finally! In less than 36 hours, Valley Baseball League will return in its full glory for the first time since the conclusion of the 2019 season. That means it’s time to break down the teams and see who’s leading the pack ahead of opening weekend.
For this preseason preview, we’ll look back to the 2019 stats and combine it with any new information based on roster updates, changes in coaching staff and everything in between.
1. Charlottesville Tom Sox: It seems fitting that the winner of the 2019 season should get the title of “Top Dog” to kick off the preseason rankings. The team finished second in the South Division before breaking out for the crown in the playoffs. The TomSox return with intentions to earn back-to-back titles with a new lineup.
2. Strasburg Express: While the team did hold a strong performance in the playoffs, what gives it the No. 2 ranking is this season’s lineup. A few big name schools cracked the Express lineup for this season, including West Virginia University and Clemson. What head coach George Laase decides to do with the lineup, we’ll have to wait and see.
3. Woodstock River Bandits: Sliding into the No. 3 spot, Woodstock was a pleasant surprise last postseason. The River Bandits went for the third selection based on their upcoming roster. The team has a lot of depth available to them, and could make a similar postseason run to the 2019 season with head coach Mike Bocock.
4. Staunton Braves: The Braves were one of the most consistent teams in the league in 2019, sitting second in the South division and finishing in the top five during the playoffs. Looking at this season’s roster, the team has players from JMU, VCU and Rider — all schools that bring new potential to Staunton.
The Middle Pack
5. Covington Lumberjacks: Featuring a lineup of Florida athletes, Covington will make another season debut in the “Middle Pack.” The team finished fifth in the 2019 postseason after defeating the Turks in the final regular season games to notch a spot. With head coach Logan Williamson leading the charge in his first campaign, the depth of this season’s lineup should be on full display.
6. Waynesboro Generals: The 2019 regular season “Top Dog ” finds itself in the No. 6 spot to start off the season. Though the playoffs didn’t go as planned for the Generals, the team will have a shot at redemption once again for a better postseason ending.
7. Winchester Royals: The Royals finished the 2019 season in the middle, and stayed there in the rankings to start out the season. The biggest note in this season’s lineup however is that it mostly is made of sophomores — providing the team a depth of both an edge and youthful exuberance.
8. New Market Rebels: Sporting a lineup with members of CAA powerhouse College of Charleston, Rebels fans have a lot to look forward to. Head coach Arthur Stenburg IV is determined for a deep postseason run, and confident with this season’s team.
9. Harrisonburg Turks: Even though this team didn’t make the playoffs in 2019, the Turks had a strong regular season performance. It’s another roster full of potential and talent in the South Division, and the team will look to make a playoff berth.
Work to Do
10. Purcellville Cannons: The Cannons, although sitting near the preseason bottom, held an intriguing lineup in the 2019 season. Bradley Riopelle was a standout player throughout 2019, and with a new lineup featuring players from big baseball schools — they’re on the horizon.
11. Front Royal Cardinals: Front Royal will have the chance to improve from the 2019 season with a new lineup. They’re another team full of potential as the season kicks off.