Welcome to our first regional final in the totally ridiculous “Best Reliever in the Past Ten Years” bracket!

  • Matthew Smallwood arrived here by beating Alex Hoppe 66.7% to 33.3% (6 votes), and Reece Karalus 54.5% to 45.5% (11 votes). His writeup: “Matthew Smallwood, ATVL’s 2nd best reliever in 2015, came to Winchester after a redshirt season at New Mexico. All he did for the Royals is go 4-1, 3.27, with a save, 0.955 WHIP, 1.6 BB/9, and 13.9 K/9 in 22 innings pitched. He finished his summer pitching in the Cape Cod League. You might wonder if Smallwood is now pitching professionally somewhere, but he chose a different path altogether. After returning to New Mexico the next year, Smallwood left baseball altogether to focus on a medical career.”
  • Evan Rathburn smacked two opponents, Patrick Christensen and Kevin Becker-Menditto, garnering over 20 votes each matchup. His writeup: “Evan Rathburn is here for his knockout regular season, but the Strasburg Express would not have advanced to the 2019 finals if he hadn’t been even better in the playoffs. Rathburn, a 6-foot, 180 pound righthanded junior from Central Missouri, was the winning pitcher in back-to-back semi-final games against the Woodstock River Bandits, when the Express were hurting for arms and didn’t know exactly where their nine innings would come from. (Rathburn’s parents, Edwin and Eileen, were there to cheer him on and nervously stand in the bleachers. Both.) In the regular season, Rathburn went 2-0, 0.67 in 13 1/3 innings, with a 1.278 WHIP, 2.7 BB/9, and 12.2 K/9. He then went on to go 2-0, 0.00 in 6 2/3 innings in the playoffs. At Central Missouri in 2020, Rathburn went a ridiculous 2-0, 0.00 in 8 1/3 innings, with three saves and a 0/11 BB/K ratio before Covid shut things down. He is back there for 2021.”

Vote by going to twitter.com/JohnATVL.

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.

Also, please check out and subscribe to the Valley Baseball League youtube channel!