Before we take a look at the top pitcher in the 2016 Valley League season, let’s take a quick look at the top pitchers from history:
2015: Hayden McCutcheon, Charlottesville and Charleston
2014: Keegan Long, Front Royal and St. Joseph’s
2013: Ricky Winters, Woodstock and Delta State
2012: Jansen Carr, Winchester and Southern Arkansas
2011: Aaron Luchterhand, Harrisonburg and Arkansas Tech
2010: Greg Nappo, Haymarket and Connecticut
2009: Grant Sasser, Haymarket and NC State
2008: Drew Rucinski, Luray and Ohio State
2007: Dustin Umberger, Luray and Liberty
Maybe someday I’ll have to do a “where are they now” segment on these.
Our #1 starter in the 2016 season is no stranger to readers of this space, because Erne Valdes, the 5-foot-8 lefty from St. Thomas and Front Royal, was the subject of an interview on ATVL on October 11, 2016. If you want to get to know him as a person a bit more, click and check it out.
As a pitcher in 2016, Erne was well nigh unhittable. In 6 starts and 34 2/3 innings for the Cardinals, Erne went 2-1, 1.04, with a 0.836 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, and 11.7 K/9. He was tied for first in ERA and WHIP, 1st in K/9, and 3rd in total strikeouts in the league. He pitched one inning in the All-Star game on July 10th, and then left for home due to an innings limit.
According to game score, Erne threw the 5th and 9th best starts all season. The 5th happened on June 29th against Woodstock, when he threw 6 perfect innings while striking out 12. The 9th was at Staunton on June 3rd when he threw 6 2/3 shutout innings, while allowing 3 hits, 1 walk, and striking out 10. Erne gave up 1 earned run in 4 of his starts, and 0 in the other 2. ATVL named him pitcher of the day in 4 of his 6 starts! After the season, Erne was named first team All-Valley, and the Most Valuable Pitcher. What an amazing season!
Erne is a 5th-year junior at St. Thomas. In 2013, as a freshman, he went 1-0, 6.75 in 18 2/3 innings pitched. He was injured after only 1 shutout inning in 2014. Returning from TJ surgery in 2016, he went 1-1, 2.93, with 1 save, 25 hits, 20 walks, and 37 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings pitched.
Well, if the summer is any indication, he will have a fantastic season at St. Thomas this spring! Congratulations, Erne!