Witt plays in Winchester with Valley League Royals
WINCHESTER, Va. – Play begins in the old-line Valley Baseball League this evening when five games open the 2017 season for the 11 teams that comprise the college-age circuit.
Like last season, there will be a 42-game schedule for all 11 teams that leads through June and July and into a short burst of playoff games that actually determine the league champion.
The Winchester Royals, a long-time member of the league, will be the summer home of infielder Paul Witt, who just completed his freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University where the Rams were the regular-season winners of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Witt led the 13-school Atlantic 10 in batting with a .374 regular-season average. He was the Rams’ second baseman after playing shortstop for Jefferson High when the Cougars had back-to-back state championships in both 2015 and 2016.
Virginia Commonwealth won its first two games in the Atlantic 10 tournament, but then lost two games to Davidson to finish second in the event where the champion drew an automatic bid to the 64-team NCAA Tournament.
With the two, season-closing losses to Davidson, the Rams were left with a 35-22 overall record, not good enough to get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Winchester plays its home games at Jim Barnett Park, just off Interstate 81 and near Shenandoah University.
Every home date is scheduled at night and there are 21 home games spread through June and July. The Royals had a 23-19 record last season and were second in the North Division of the league. Winchester was eliminated from the 2016 playoffs when it lost its first two games in the opening best two-of-three series.
The other five teams in the North Division are New Market, Strasburg, Front Royal, Woodstock and Purcellville.
Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Staunton, Waynesboro and Covington are the five teams in the South Division.
The pre-season Winchester roster lists two players from Marshall University. Brandon Romero was a little-used pitcher in 2017 for the Thundering Herd, where he appeared in six games and got in three innings work. Alex Reynolds is a first baseman, who did not appear in any 2017 games for the Thundering Herd.
There will be an all-star game between the North and South divisions near the mid-point of the schedule.
Every player in the league has remaining collegiate eligibility and many of the participants just completed their freshman seasons at their respective schools. Any player with three years of college experience can be drafted in June by Major League Baseball. Several players last season were drafted and signed professional contracts, thus leaving their Valley League teams after only short stays.
The Valley Baseball League is a non-profit organization that relies heavily on volunteers that provide housing for the players, run concession stands during games and do other game-day duties that are necessary to keeping the team organizations running smoothly.
Witt has three more years of eligibility and will be available for the Major League Baseball draft after the 2019 season at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.