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Corbin’s Corner: ‘Sox Treading Water

As the green and blue round the corner and head for the final straightaway of the summer, Corbin’s Corner is back with three new developments to keep an eye on.

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The Charlottesville Tom Sox (20-8) battled through an up-and-down week of baseball since the last edition of Corbin’s Corner, going 3-and-2 in their last five games to maintain a two-game lead in the VBL South Division. After bouncing back in Harrisonburg last Tuesday, the ‘Sox dropped a nail-biter in Covington, slaughtered the Generals in Waynesboro, held off Culpeper at home, fell to Staunton in the longest game (4 hours and 35 minutes) in team history on Sunday, and most recently saw Tuesday night’s game suspended in the fifth inning due to issues with the lights.

 

In the blink of an eye, we’re suddenly creeping toward the middle of July, meaning Charlottesville only has 12 games left on their regular-season schedule. As the green and blue round the corner and head for the final straightaway of the summer, Corbin’s Corner is back with three new developments to keep an eye on. 

 

Brookins and Ferraro: new bats making an impact

 

The ‘Sox are trying to recapture the sheer dominance that characterized the first half of their season, and two new faces, Blake Brookins (Florida) and Caden Ferraro (Blinn), have immediately helped the squad take a step in that direction.

 

Brookins, a towering 6’6 rising sophomore from Miami, Fla., made his ‘Sox debut last Wednesday in Covington and has immediately mashed for Head Coach Randy Tomlin’s lineup. Brookins is 3-for-8 with a home run, 3 RBI, and 3 walks in his first three full games, giving him an astronomical early on-base percentage of .538. It’s an incredibly small sample size, but Brookins might be just the burst of power that Charlottesville has been searching for the past ten games.

 

Ferraro, a two-way lefty from Pearland, Tex., has made an instant impact as well. Since making his summer debut last Monday in Harrisonburg, Ferraro has gone 8-for-20 (.400) in five full games with six walks and a pair of doubles. The Blinn College product has been on base in all five of his starts so far, racked up three hits on Wednesday in Covington, and gave the pitching staff two solid innings of work in the marathon at Staunton over the weekend.

 

It’s not an easy task to start producing before you even learn all of your teammates’ names, but Brookins and Ferraro are the latest in a long line of ‘Sox to hit the ground running after touching down in C’Ville.

 

A couple of familiar faces had big weeks as well for Charlottesville. Jake Books (Coastal Carolina) went nuclear at Waynesboro on Friday, racking up three hits and five RBI against the Generals to highlight an 8-for-17 week at the dish. Books has been with the ‘Sox for three weeks now and already leads the squad with six doubles as he’s become a staple of the middle of the order recently.

 

And finally, a frontrunner for the Corbin’s Corner “Mr. Consistency” award at the end of the season, Robbie Lavey (George Washington) keeps on producing for the ‘Sox. Lavey has been on base in each of his last six starts and went 6-for-17 this past week to continue his already stellar season.


 

The ‘Sox seem to have found an ‘ace’

 

Bobby Olsen (Villanova Commit), the Valley Baseball League’s South Division Pitcher of the Week, took the mound twice over the past five games and racked up nine scoreless innings, allowing only four walks and five hits while striking out nine batters. Olsen’s ERA is down to 1.64 on the season through four appearances, and he’s doing what no other pitcher has been able to successfully do this season: eat up innings.

 

The ‘Sox have a wealth of talented arms in their bullpen (like Daniel Powell (Kennesaw State), who despite allowing his first earned runs of the season on Tuesday at Harrisonburg still has the best ERA on the team (1.42) amongst those who have thrown more than 0.1 innings), but no one has consistently been able to go for more than two or three innings. This is certainly due, in part, to the pitch counts that their college pitching coaches have set for them this summer, but Olsen’s ability to stretch out his appearances recently has been invaluable.

 

This is especially true considering the tax that the Tom Sox pen has been under recently. Tomlin was forced to use eight pitchers on Wednesday, five on Saturday, and seven on Sunday. With so many arms taking the mound, Olsen’s four and five-inning outings have been just what the doctor ordered.

 

A true ace is also something the ‘Sox have been desperately searching for all summer. Despite owning the second-best team ERA and the second-most total strikeouts in the VBL, not a single pitcher on the staff has thrown enough innings to qualify for the league leaderboard. They’ve been holding strong as a unit for most of the season, but once the postseason comes around it’s often the teams with studs at the top of their rotations who find the most success.


 

The ‘Sox are tracking for the record books

 

Charlottesville is two games away from crossing the three-quarter mark of the season, and with the offense’s sustained excellence this summer, the ‘Sox (and a couple individual players) are on pace to topple some team records.

 

Perhaps the most impressive trait of this season’s ‘Sox offense is its consistent ability to take quality at-bats, work counts, and make opposing pitchers work. So, it’s no surprise that this Charlottesville squad has a combined on-base percentage of .413, currently 15 points higher than last season’s team which holds the team record at .398.

 

Drawing walks has been a key factor in the lofty OBP. With 193 walks through 28 games, the ‘Sox are on pace for about 276 by season’s end. The club record held by the 2023 squad is 298 (postseason included), so if they can ramp their walk numbers up a click and extend their season by a few more games in the playoffs, that number is well within reach. It’s also worth noting that this season’s ‘Sox team will play fewer regular-season games than any other iteration in club history due to the new VBL schedule.

 

No one has mastered the art of quality at-bats quite like Ethan Gibson (Virginia Tech). The Hokie has drawn a team-high 26 walks, putting him on pace for a team record of his own — Ari Sechopoulos’s 34 bases on balls in 2017 currently tops the club leaderboard. Cale Stricklin (Auburn), perhaps the most underrated part of this lineup, has 19 walks of his own and leads the team in OBP (.474) among qualified batters.

 

But it hasn’t been all small-ball for the ‘Sox this season. Their team slugging percentage of .404 is threatening the 2017 squad’s .409 mark, and with 21 home runs already, the club record of 32 is in jeopardy (2022, 2023). Lavey has hit five long balls this summer, putting him on the cusp of Henry Ford’s team record of seven set last summer.

 

Perhaps the flukiest record that could fall later this month is total triples. The 2015, ’17, and ’21 squads each hit nine three-baggers, but this year’s team already has seven. No single player has more than one triple to his name this season, but look out for a guy like Gibson, who has shown a lot of speed this season, to add another to his total and help the ‘Sox chase triples history.


 

Looking ahead: 

The ‘Sox have a pair of home games — Tuesday vs. Covington and Thursday vs. Harrisonburg — this week before road trips to Culpeper and Harrisonburg on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

 

Related Stories

Postgame Report: July 3 at Covington

Corbin’s Corner: Looking Toward the Second Half

The last week of Charlottesville Tom Sox (17-6) baseball saw the green and blue run into some adversity for the first time this season. After dropping Monday night’s game at Harrisonburg 10-4, Charlottesville has now lost two out of three games for the first time this season; emphasizing their first-half dominance while illustrating some recent turbulence.

Corbin’s Corner: Reflections from the Halfway Point

The Charlottesville Tom Sox (15-4) went 5-1 in another dominant week of VBL action to maintain their league-best record and expand their South Division lead to 4.5 games over the Harrisonburg Turks (10-8). After a two-game sweep of the Staunton Braves (10-10) on Saturday and Sunday, Charlottesville is riding a three-game win streak into the halfway point of the summer season, and with 19 of 40 ballgames in the books, Corbin’s Corner is back with some midseason reflections.

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