August 4, 2011

Virginia Cardinals Wrap Summer, Hold Tryouts

The state's first fully sponsored travel team for college-bound high school players, the Virginia Cardinals, finished up summer play at the end of July, and rapidly turned their attention to the fall and beyond.

After spending their June weekends at James Madison, Virginia Tech and Radford, and in Virginia Beach, the Cardinals sped into July at wood bat tourneys at UVA and then at Perfect Game's World Wood Bat Association 17u championships in Georgia. The team then returned home for Triple Crown's 17u National Championship, before wrapping up play at the Dynamic World Series in Greenville, North Carolina.

Through it all, the Cardinals amassed a 24-8 won-loss record. The team hit its stride during the week in Georgia, finishing tied for 17th out of 216 teams participating. The only Virginia-based team to win a playoff game at the event, the Cardinals hurled the most shutouts of any team in the tourney (four out of their seven games), while also scoring enough to take four of their wins by invoking the mercy rule.

The Triple Crown event was played in extraordinary heat, but perhaps conditioned by their time in Georgia, the Cardinals were unfazed. They swept all seven of their games, taking the title while posting three more shutouts along the way.

CARDINALS TRYOUT INFORMATION

Open to: All Virginia resident players in the high school graduating classes of
2013 & 2014 (rising sophomores and rising juniors), at all positions

When: Wednesday, August 10, 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. or later

Where: Randolph-Macon College's Estes Park

RSVP Required - Contact the Cardinals' General Manager
at bradmarrs@verizon.net for more information

With college programs moving up their evaluation and recruitment time tables again this year, the Cardinals found fast and repeated success for their players. James River LHP Nathan Kirby entered the summer having already committed to UVA the preceding fall, and after an impressive performance at Perfect Game's National Showcase in early June, found himself ranked as the top pitching prospect in the state's rising senior class. By the Cardinals' second weekend, two of Kirby's teammates from both James River and the Cardinals - Kit Scheetz and Tyler Carrico - found themselves weighing multiple offers. By month's end, Scheetz would commit to Virginia Tech, while Carrico would opt to join Kirby at UVA.

Radford landed three Cardinals 2012 teammates in Dinwiddie RHP/1B Daniel Bridgeman, Grassfield C Nykolai Ellis, and Western Branch OF/RHP Shane Johnsonbaugh, while William & Mary lined up middle infielder Brian Lee. And AA All State phenom Tyler Allen, a 2013 OF from Powhatan, chose UVA from among multiple suitors.

The recruiting isn't done, as there are still several talented players on the Cardinals roster who will return to the field in the fall to continue the process into the more traditional fall recruiting season. Several of those players will spend time in August taking invited, "unofficial" recruiting visits to various colleges.

What explains the run of success for a program in only its second summer of operation? Head coach Rich Graham outlined the keys:

"First, you cannot fool anyone. The players have to demonstrate talent, and they have to show that they play hard and come to compete every day. That's what we look for in our players - guys whom we know we can help to get where they belong. In particular this year, we built a strong and deep pitching staff. With a power lefty like Kirby, or a guy with a slider like Carrico's, you can see the pure stuff. But then you get consistently outstanding performances from guys like Kit Scheetz, Daniel Bridgeman and Joe Manion - guys who prove they come to compete every time out. That means you can start every game with the mindset that you're going to win.

"Second, we made a commitment from the very start of our program to be a fast and athletic team. We have some power, don't get me wrong, but we are not a bunch of husky sluggers. We are fast at all our outfield and infield positions. Our lineup regularly has six or even seven guys with 60 speeds between 6.5 and 6.9. We put that speed on display every game, on both offense and defense. In the new era of BBCOR bats, college coaches are looking for speed players, and we made it a point of emphasis to have a lot of them.

"And of course, you just cannot underestimate the importance of our being fully financially sponsored. Sure, some of our guys could afford to play for any team out there. But some honestly could not. Being sponsored means we can serve all of the players who could make the cut, regardless of their financial situation.

"As we head into our summer tryout, we're looking to continue and to get even better going forward."

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