In our next Elite Eight matchup, we have former Express Carter Pharis (2016) against former Turk Shane Billings (2015).

  • Pharis was listed as the 31st seed in this battle, and here he is, one win from the Final Four. He defeated Cole Gruber (89-11%), Michael Wielansky (57-43%), and Max Wood (53-47%) to get here. His writeup: “Carter Pharis was a four-year starter at UAB who came to Strasburg after his freshman year in 2016. All he did that summer is hit .342/.440/.535 in 155 at-bats, with 35 runs scored, 13 doubles, a triple, five home runs, 30 RBIs, and a 21/19 BB/K ratio. He helped the Express to a 30-12 regular season record, and the franchise won its second straight title. He was ATVL’s fourth best hitter from that year, and made the All-Decade second team at third base. In four years at UAB, Pharis hit a combined .298/.390/.442 in 801 at-bats, with 125 runs scored, 57 doubles, two triples, 18 home runs, 137 RBIs, a 103/135 BB/K ratio, and 36 stolen bases while only getting caught twice. He played pretty well in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2017, but was not drafted after his senior season in 2019.”
  • Billings was ranked 7th. He defeated Bradley Picha (88-12%) and Julian Ridings (58-42%) to get here. His writeup: ““Shane Billings came to Harrisonburg in 2015 from D-II Wingate. He crushed everyone that summer, putting up a .418/.483/.549 slashline in 153 at-bats, with 45 runs scored, six doubles, four triples, two home runs, a 19/13 BB/K ratio, and 21 stolen bases. He was pretty obviously the MVP of the season. After a junior season at Wingate in which he hit an otherworldly .444/.502/.639 with 30 stolen bases, the St. Louis Cardinals picked him in the 13th round of the 2016 June draft. He played in parts of four seasons in the minor leagues, putting up a total of .274/.304/.342 in 1,024 at-bats. Weirdly, he was hitting .370/.393/.630 in 27 at-bats in Double-A Springfield when the Cards cut him loose in 2019.”

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And by the way, if you want to read a ton about either the 2015 or 2019 VBL season, be sure to check out this post on the 2019 Valley League Annual!

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