August 11, 2012

Cardinals Conclude Successful Summer, Look to Fall and Beyond

As the summer travel baseball season wound to a close at the end of July, the Virginia Cardinals closed the books on a whirlwind eight weeks of play designed to help the team's players gain exposure to college coaches. The team travelled to the campuses of James Madison, Virginia Tech, Radford, East Carolina, Wake Forest, N.C. State, Elon, Old Dominion, and Christopher Newport Universities, while also making the annual pilgrimage to East Cobb, Georgia, for the now-massive Perfect Game wood bat tournament held there each July.

The Cardinals compiled an impressive 21-8-4 record, including a co-championship at Impact Baseball's 17u wood bat tournament held in Greenville, NC. Despite playing over half their schedule with wood bats, the team outscored opponents by an average of 6.0 to 3.5 runs per game, out-hit opponents by a .284-.197 margin, and out-homered opponents 11 to 2 in their 33 total games.

Perhaps more importantly, the team has already garnered college commitments for four of its rising senior players, and, in a sign of how the collegiate recruiting time table continues to accelerate year by year, for five of its seven rising juniors as well. The players already committed include:

Rising Seniors (Class of 2013)
Tyler Allen, Powhatan OF, UVA
Mac Caples, James River 3B, Va. Tech
Mack Krupp, Colonial Heights LHP, Va. Tech
Luke Scherzer, Powhatan IF/RHP, Va. Tech

Rising Juniors (Class of 2014)
Derek Casey, Hanover RHP, UVA
Tyler Fitzgerald, Cosby OF, Va. Tech
Cullen Large, James River SS, William & Mary
Brad McKay, Cosby IF, James Madison
Harry Lee Watson, James River OF, Va. Tech

While several players remain uncommitted, some of them have already received offers and remain likely to make their decisions during the coming fall months leading up to the November NCAA early signing period.

"With any season, as you're going through it there are good days and less-than-good days. But when you get to this point, where you can take a breath and look back on it, it was a very successful two months," noted Cardinals head coach Rich Graham. "And we remain on track to place every senior who completes our program before all is said and done, for the third straight year. That is probably what we're most proud of."

A key tenet of the Cardinals organization has been its financial sponsorship. The Cardinals were the first team in Virginia to offer players truly no-cost participation, as the team covers all play-related expenses, charges no fees, and even provides hotel accommodations and car pool arrangements for all trips. But this year, for the first time, Graham wanted his players to do something concrete to show their appreciation for the benefits they received. So he organized a group volunteer outing, helping to build a home for Habitat for Humanity. Thirteen players participated in the effort on August 4. "It wasn't something we had to nag the players to do. They stepped right up to pitch in. That means a lot to us, to see that these are not just teenagers taking what's given to them - but that they are maturing into responsible young men as well."

With no games in August, the team now regroups for a less intensive fall season, all the while keeping an eye on developing its roster for 2013. "We have found that fall tournaments are not all that well scouted. Instead, we'll focus on playing one-day doubleheaders at the schools where our uncommitted seniors are under consideration. And for the first time, we're looking at running a split squad, to help us bring along our next class of players (2014's and 2015's) so that we are fully prepared for next summer," explained Graham. "That is what has to be done now, because increasingly the colleges are looking to nail down their recruiting classes earlier and earlier."

Cardinals general manager Brad Marrs agreed. "Just a few years ago, only a handful of the highest ranked players - predominantly pitchers - had offers in hand before their junior year spring seasons. Now, you're seeing large numbers of players, across all positions, making handshake deals even before their junior year of school starts. It's forcing us to rethink how we go about selecting our players and then getting them exposure on the right time table."

Players interested in becoming a part of that process can act now for their shot at making the Cardinals' fall roster. With their committed seniors moving on with their careers, the team will add numerous players out of a tryout planned for Tuesday, August 14 at 2:00 p.m., at Randolph-Macon College.

Tryouts are free of charge, but players must register in advance by contacting Marrs at [email protected]

The team is also happy to confirm that even its tryouts are now heavily scouted. "We have firm commitments not only from UVA, Virginia Tech, William & Mary and Randolph-Macon to attend the event for scouting purposes. We expect even more to come in the end. So even for those who might not make the team, it's a no-cost opportunity to get on someone's RADAR screen," Marrs explained.

What: Virginia Cardinals Tryout
When: Tuesday, August 14, 2:00 p.m.
Where: At Randolph-Macon College (Ashland)
Participation is free but pre-registration is required; contact [email protected]  for more information

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