Power-hitting DH one of three from Charles Town named all-league
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – Designated hitter Andrew Yacyk is the lone first-team All-Valley Baseball League honoree to represent the 2014 Charles Town Cannons.
Outfielder Justin “Hooty” Harris and starting pitcher Austin Stephens earned second-team recognition for the local summer collegiate league franchise, as voted on by league administrators and regional media.
Charles Town opened play Monday night in Waynesboro, Va., in the VBL championship series, dropping Game 1 to the defending champion Waynesboro Generals 11-1.
The Cannons were scheduled to host Waynesboro in Game 2 of a best-of-three series after press time Tuesday at Sager Field at Jefferson High School in Shenandoah Junction. If necessary, the deciding Game 3 is scheduled for tonight in Waynesboro.
Staunton first baseman Gunnar McNeill was voted league MVP, while Front Royal starter Jake Harper was voted league pitcher of the year.
Front Royal led all teams with seven players named All-Valley League, including six first-team selections.
Strasburg, Harrisonburg and Staunton each had four players named, while Waynesboro, Winchester and Charles Town added three apiece.
Covington had two selections, and New Market and Aldie had one each.
Woodstock was the only one of 11 teams to go without all-league representation.
There were no unanimous selections, and only one player received votes on all ballots: first-team starting pitcher Mike Vinson of Strasburg.
Yacyk, a rising sophomore at Liberty University, led the Valley League with eight home runs in the regular season. The right-handed power-hitting outfielder and first baseman has added two more homers in the playoffs. He finished third in the Home Run Derby prior to the VBL All-Star Game last month at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.
Yacyk batted .277 in the regular season and led the Cannons with 32 RBI, helping Charles Town secure a 23-19 record – good enough for the fifth of eight postseason seeds.
“His ability to hit the long ball and change a game with one swing of the bat has been huge for us all season,” said Brett Fuller, Cannons’ president and field manager. “The kid’s got phenomenal strength.”
Harris, a rising senior at Emporia State in Kansas, led the Valley League with 31 stolen bases in the regular season. Harris, who filled the leadoff role in Charles Town for much of the season, was the lone everyday starter to bat above .300 for the Cannons, leading the team with a .308 batting average including a league-best four triples.
“The thing I like about ‘Hooty’ as our table-setter … is that in over half our games that he’s led off, he’s gotten on base his first at bat,” Fuller said. “I just think he’s a great asset to the team in so many ways.”
Stephens was strong for Charles Town this summer, registering a 1.77 earned run average through 40 2/3 innings. The rising junior left-hander from South Alabama recorded a 3-0 mark for the Cannons and pitched a scoreless inning for the North team July 6 during the All-Star Game.
Stephens ended his VBL campaign with a complete-game victory July 9 against Harrisonburg, in which he surrendered one unearned run through nine innings of work.
“He gave us 40-plus innings of stellar pitching with a sub-2.00 ERA before his college coaches shut him down,” Fuller said. “He was 3-0 and huge for us on the mound.”
Staunton’s McNeill led the Valley League with a .402 batting average in 42 games played. The rising sophomore first baseman from Florida International collected 68 hits through 169 at-bats, including 16 doubles, six home runs and 50 RBI.
In the VBL quarterfinals against Charles Town, McNeill went 7-for-12 with a double, two walks and two RBIs. He also had multi-hit performances in all three games, including a 3-4 night in the loss to Charles Town on July 31.
In 10 appearances, including nine starts, Front Royal’s Harper went 5-0 with a 2.22 ERA through 52 2/3 innings pitched. The rising senior left-hander from St. Joseph’s struck out 46 and walked 11 while limiting opponents to 42 hits and 14 earned runs.
On June 13 in Front Royal, Va., Harper pitched seven scoreless against Charles Town, scattering four hits while fanning three and walking one en route to a 7-0 Cardinals’ victory.