- Last VBL title: 2021- yep, the Express are the current champions
- General Manager/Recruiter: Parker Neal- According to Coach George Laase, “Parker is the straw that stirs the drink.”
- Head Coach: George Laase. Laase is entering his seventh year as a head coach- five with Staunton and two with Strasburg. He also assisted in Staunton for five years, Harrisonburg for two, and played with Staunton in 2003. He’s the current Staunton High School head coach as well. Laase is also excited to have assistant coach Collin Scott back, who worked with the hitters last year, producing excellent results this spring.
- Key Pro Alumni: The Express currently has 13 active minor leaguers. Zach Peek (2017) and Christian McGowan (2019) are probably the team’s highest rated prospects, but the team also scored the ACC Pitcher of the Year (Rhett Lowder- 2021) and SEC Co-Player of the Year (Sonny DiChiara- 2019) this spring.
- Graham Brown, Coastal Carolina (2021)
- Cam Clonch, East Carolina (2021)
- Graham Crawford, Alabama (2021)
- Ty Hooks, Winthrop (2021)
- Robert Kelly, Potomac State (2021)
- Zach Ketterman, Western Carolina (2021)
- Tripp McKinlay, St Johns River State (2021)
- Daniel Ouderkirk, West Virginia (2021)
- Trevor Sharp, West Virginia (2021)
- Jem Sisco, Thomas Jefferson (2021)
- Dalton Skinner, UAB (2021)
- Samuel Swygert, Central Florida (2021)
Yes, that’s twelve returners from last year’s title team. As Laase noted, “It means you had a good experience, and genuinely cared for the community.” It also means the team will have veteran leadership, and will hit the ground running (once everyone arrives, of course).
The 2021 Express went 26-15 in the regular season, a half game ahead of Woodstock to win the North Division. In the playoffs, the team was untouchable; it swept all three series by a composite 59 runs to 33. The offense basically pummeled the opposition; in those six games, the Express lineup hit .327 with 12 doubles, 11 home runs, and 44 walks against only 38 strikeouts. Ryan Ammons closed out the final game, and the team ended the season holding aloft the Jim Lineweaver trophy. Rhett Lowder was All Things Valley League’s top starter, Ryan Galanie was the #2 hitter, and Ammons was the top reliever.
Hitters to Watch
(Stats through Thursday, May 26)
- Graham Brown: Drove in five runs in Strasburg’s 7-3 win in game one of the finals in ‘21, hitting .309/.396/.540 with 14 doubles and six home runs this spring
- Cam Clonch: 2nd team All-Conference, .298/.327/.510, four doubles and six home runs
- Tripp McKinlay: 2nd team All-Valley League last season. His “hard-nosed mentality is something you can’t coach,” according to Laase. Hit .335/.393/.509 in 212 spring at-bats, with six doubles, two triples, and nine home runs
- Zach Ketterman: Ten doubles and ten home runs in 225 at-bats
- Jonah Cox, Eastern Oklahoma State (Oral Roberts commit): An insane .431/.502/.631 in 195 at-bats, with 22 doubles and 43 stolen bases
- Drake Kerr, Eastern Oklahoma State: .352/.437/.541 in 196 at-bats, 21 doubles, five triples, 26 stolen bases
- Armando Albert, Florida Atlantic: 44/49 BB/K ratio in 208 at bats, along with 19 stolen bases
- Henry Koehler, Davidson: .303/.384/.418 in 201 at-bats, 11 doubles, eight stolen bases
Pitchers to Watch
- Daniel Ouderkirk: Struck out 15 batters in eight spring innings
- Jem Sisco: 4-2, 1.96, with 93 K’s in only 55 spring innings
- Trevor Sharp: Redshirted this spring at WVU
- Robert Kelly: Will most likely start for the Express; went 5-2, 3.48, with 18 walks and 79 K’s in 52 innings
- Sam Swygert: 2-0, 1.39, 30 K’s in 32 innings
- Tyler Dean, Virginia Tech: The highest rated prospect the Express have ever had, according to Perfect Game. He hits the mid-90’s with his fastball.
- Isaac Fix, Davidson: 1-1, 3.28, 21 K’s in 24 ⅔ innings, will be rotation arm
- Anthony Ursitti, Florida: 23 K’s in 18 ⅔ innings, can hit 96 mph
- Carsten Finnvold’s father, Gar, made eight starts for the Boston Red Sox in 1994 (Florida)
- Zeus Ponder and Jacob Rosenkranz make our completely-unofficial All-Name team… because “Zeus Ponder” sounds like a famous sculpture, and who doesn’t like names that make us think of Hamlet? (Full disclosure- I was an high school English teacher for almost a quarter century)
- Garrett McMillan is Alabama’s Friday night starter, but he is coming to Strasburg to hit. Remember the last person to do that in the Valley? It was Lael Lockhart with Woodstock in 2019, who hit all summer (very well, by the way) even though he was a crucial weekend arm for Houston. Lockhart is now in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system.
- Last, but by far the most important “other note:” Coach Laase and his lovely wife, Jess, are expecting twins in December! Congratulations, and get your sleep now, George!