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Cannons second season just ahead

By Staff | May 9, 2014

These are college baseball players.

They use wooden bats, stay with host families for the 44-game season, and play their home games at Sager Field at Jefferson High School.

These are the Charles Town Cannons of the venerable Valley Baseball League.

This will be the Cannons’ second summer in the 11-team Valley League that stretches down I-81 from Aldie and Charles Town in the north to Covington in the south.

All the players in the far-flung league have remaining college eligibility. The league begins its rapid-paced season on Memorial Day weekend, and the Cannons will be at home on both May 30 (against Winchester) and May 31 (against Front Royal).

Jefferson County residents Mike Smith and John Lowery, Sr. are associated with the Cannons. Smith will be in his first year as the team’s general manager and will be an on-field assistant coach. Lowery, Sr., as well as his son John, Jr., are on the team’s board of directors.

While most of the Cannons players come from colleges from as far away as California and Florida, Shepherd University pitcher Ryan Pansch played at Washington High in Charles Town. Infielder Andrew Yacyk is a North Hagerstown High graduate and has been a starter this season as a freshman at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.

Yacyk is one of four players from Liberty, while the team has two players on its roster from Florida Gulf Coast, Florida Atlantic and Chapman.

None of last season’s players return for the summer of 2014.

NCAA Division I schools sending players to the Cannons include Virginia Military Institute, James Madison, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Bethune Cookman, Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas.

Chaz Pal, an infielder from Volunteer State CC, leads his team in batting average and other offensive categories.

Entering this weekend’s games at Fairmont, Shepherd right-hander Pansch has a 5-3 record with two saves as the Rams find themselves in first place in the Mountain East Conference.

Another pitcher on the listed roster from a school located in West Virginia is Connor Gorman from Potomac State, a two-year school in Keyser.

The Cannons offer a season ticket for their 22 home games for $75. Individual game tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors 65 and older and $2 for children ages 12 and under.

Each home game features raffles, discounts from local fast-food businesses, games for the children and a variety of concession stand food.

Charles Town is in the league’s Northern Division along with Winchester, Front Royal, Aldie, Strasburg and Woodstock.

The Southern Division has Covington, New Market, Harrisonburg, Waynesboro and Staunton. Rockbridge dropped out of the league after the 2013 season, but will be replaced next year, bringing the league membership back to a dozen teams.

The regular season ends at the tailend of July and eight teams enter the playoffs leading to the league championship. The playoffs begin in early August.

The Cannons begin their home games at 7 p.m.

College players. Wooden bats. Family entertainment. Several area players on Charles Town’s roster.

It starts on May 30 when the green-clad Winchester Royals visit Shenandoah Junction to help open another Valley League season.