The four players from West Virginia University on the roster of the Winchester Royals didn’t distinguish themselves this summer. But nearly a dozen other players did as the Royals accomplished something few other teams have ever done in the Valley Baseball League.
With only one game left in the 44-game season, Winchester had carved out a 30-13 record and was 9 1/2 games in front of the second-place team (Woodstock at 20-22 overall) in its six-team North Division.
Alan Filauro, a catcher from WVU, was batting .270 and had started only 24 of the 43 games. Infielder Justin Fox had a .218 average and had started 15 games, and infielder Ryan Bennett was sloughing along with a .175 average and starts in 13 games. Outfielder Brady Wilson had been injured and played in only four games with his .200 batting average. Those four Mountaineers were accepted by the Royals before Greg Van Zant was removed as West Virginia’s baseball coach.
But the Royals had swamped much of the opposition with Jimmy Yezzo (Delaware), Brad Picha (Lamar), Joseph Odom (Huntingdon), Leo Rojas (Alabama State), Logan Moon (Central Arkansas), Garret Autrey (Lamar), and Will Bynum (Mount Olive) all contributing offensively.
Yezzo was batting .381 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs. Picha had a .362 average and 10 homers. Odom was hitting a robust .354 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs.
Rojas roared through the first 25 games, hitting nearly .440 and scoring a bushel of runs. The slightly-built shortstop is still batting .343, hit seven homers and scored 47 runs. Moon batted .286 and drove in 31 runs, and Autrey batted .278 with 27 RBIs.
Byrum batted .280, helping the Royals to winning streaks that extended to seven games just after the season opened the first week in June and then a six-game win streak the first week in July.
The Royals had a number of three-game winning streaks that helped win all but 13 of their games.
Five pitchers have started at least six games this summer. Janson Carr, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound righthander from Southern Arkansas College, has started eight times and gone 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA in 49.2 innings.
Stephen Cooke (Indiana of Pennsylvania) has started seven games and gone 4-1 with a 3.89 ERA. James Baune (Southern Arkansas) has started six times and has a 4-1 record and 4.15 ERA. Charles Neely (St. Leo College) has eight starts and a 4-2 record. Joshua Powers (Stetson) has seven starts and a 3-1 record.
Patrick Bankemper (Liberty) has six saves, has appeared in 15 games with a 2-1 record, and pitched to an ERA of 2.86. Stewart Jones (Tennessee-Martin) has been in 15 games, has a 2-0 record and a 2.05 ERA.
Steve Sabins, an assistant coach at Oklahoma State, is in his first season as the head coach of the Royals. His staff of assistants are also in their first seasons.
The Royals had a team batting average of .298 and outscored their opponents 325-224. Winchester’s 72 homers dwarfed its opposition’s 32 home runs.
In the South Division of the Valley League, the Waynesboro Generals had a 29-13 record with two games remaining on the regular season schedule.
Winchester has drawn a crowd of 1,016 to Bridgeforth Field for a July 6 date against Harrisonburg Turks. A crowd of 669 attended a home game on July 12 against Luray. There have been five crowds in excess of 500 people this summer.
Winchester has been a member of the Valley League since 1979. There have been 13 league championships won by past Royals teams. And outfielder Reggie Sanders, pitcher Jimmy Key, and infielder Adam Everett have been Royals players who have gone on to have extended major league careers.
Very few of the teams since the initial 1979 season have been able to run up records of 30-13.
The league champion is determined by the a short spate of playoff games held before the players and coaches return to their colleges for the next school year.