Image courtesy of JMU Athletics Communications
By Nick Stevens
The 2019 season has come and gone for the James Madison University Diamond Dukes, but that doesn’t mean the baseball stops. One of the best things about this sport is that it never ends. In preparation for next season, many Diamond Dukes have elected to spend their summers on the road, participating in one of the many collegiate summer leagues across the country.
From the prestigious Cape Cod League to the local Valley Baseball League and even the Rockingham County Baseball League, current Dukes continue to work on their game up and down the east coast in anticipation of a 2020 CAA run.
We’re now well into the summer league season, so it’s a good time to take stock of how these Diamond Dukes are performing. A word of caution when looking at these numbers – players are working on different things during their summer league tours so stat-line scouting provides only a small amount of information. A pitcher’s numbers may be a bit inflated if he’s working solely on his fastball one night. It’s important to remember that the summer is about development, reps and having a bit of fun.
Valley Baseball League
(Sr.) Harry Brown – 18 games, .279 average, .380 on-base percentage, six doubles, nine RBI
(So.) Travis Reifsnider – 11 games, .308 average, .500 on-base percentage, eight walks
(So.) Nick Zona – 12 games, .208 average, seven RBI, 6-7 in stolen base attempts.
(Jr.) Liam McDonnell – 4.2 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 6 K
Reifsnider was a key late-game substitute as a freshman and saw his fair share of starts as the season went along. He brings a smart approach to the plate, and a .500 OBP through 11 games is showing that. A big summer and productive fall season could propel him to a notable sophomore campaign. It’s also a good feeling to see Nick Zona back on the field. Zona is a special talent who gets to stay home at Veterans Memorial Park this summer to rehab from an injury that cost him the second half of the season.
Front Royal Cardinals:
(So.) Carson Bell – 20 games, .279 average, five extra-base hits (two home runs), 16 walks, 5-5 in stolen bases
(So.) Tre Dabney – 6 games, .333 average, two home runs, hit by a pitch three times
(So.) David Willis – 14 games, .175 average, two home runs, .353 on-base percentage
Dabney’s summer just started this week and picked up where he left off with the Dukes, meaning home runs and hit by pitches. The Valley League isn’t a cake walk. Seeing rising sophomores with big numbers should be a good sign for the Dukes’ offense in 2020. Willis is beginning to heat up for the Cardinals, putting in back-to-back-to-back multi-hit performances, while Bell is a big sleeper to watch next season. It will be hard to keep his speed, power, and patience out of the lineup.
New Market Rebels:
(Sr.) Brady Harju – 6 games, .261 average with a home run and a double. Harju has been placed on the injured list and has not appeared in a game since.
(Sr.) Kyle Hayes – 13 games, .220 average, four doubles, eight walks (just seven strikeouts). Hayes is a defensive specialist, a very good one. His contributions to the game aren’t directly seen on his stat line. The CAA’s top pitching staff doesn’t earn that title without a fantastic catcher behind the plate.
(So.) Callaway Sigler – 4 games, .313 average, three doubles. Has not played since June 3rd.
(So.) Lliam Grubbs – 4 starts, 1-1, 3.20 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 6 BB, 31 K, .192 average against
(Jr.) Justin Showalter – 2 starts, 1-0, 4.00 ERA, 9 K, 9 IP.
It’s not a surprise to see a JMU pitcher sit in second place in all of the Valley League in strikeouts. Grubbs is having a breakout summer and answering the early call to step up for a JMU pitching staff which was hit hard by the MLB draft (a great problem to have). He’s my top name to watch during the Purple/Gold World Series this fall.
Woodstock River Bandits:
(So.) Christopher Wallace – 7 games, 0-2, 7.45 ERA, 6 K, 9.2 IP. Has split time with Woodstock and Purcellville this season. At 6’7”, Wallace just needs innings to settle in and learn to use his frame to his advantage. There’s potential here and he’s going to learn from a coaching staff that is cranking out MLB-level pitchers.
Cape Cod League
Hyannis Harbor Hawks:
(Sr.) Fox Semones – 5 games, 2-11 (.182 average), one run scored.
Semones is a perfect example of that stat-line scouting I mentioned earlier. His playing time isn’t there and neither are his numbers, yet he caught the eye of a former pro scout with one batting practice session. Scouts came to Harrisonburg to watch Semones often in 2019 and for good reason. Bringing home what he learns this summer from elite competition will be a major benefit for the senior leader.
(Jr.) Nick Stewart – 2 games, 6.2 IP, 6.75 ERA, 11 strikeouts, 1 BB.
Former JMU Duke/current Cleveland Indian Kevin Kelly posted the top ERA in the Cape last season and made a name for himself. Stewart has the opportunity to open eyes with his strikeout numbers. Likely next season’s Friday night starter, keep an eye on how Stewart handles the top college bats in the country as the summer rolls along.
Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League
Bethesda Big Train:
(Jr.) Michael Bechtold – 2 games, 2-0, 1.29 ERA, 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
(Jr.) Anthony Piccolino – 5 games, 0-1, 4.26 ERA, 6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 K
Piccolino has also appeared in the outfield for the Big Train when they need of an outfielder. Odds are Bechtold is part of the weekend rotation for the Dukes next season after showing up in the Purple/Gold World Series and having a solid 2019 season. High strikeouts and low walks are the name of the game at JMU, and Bechtold is a big part of that.
Silver Spring-Takoma Thunder Bolts:
(Sr.) DaVonn Griffin – 14 games, .306 average, .414 OBP, five doubles, one home run, three stolen bases. I’ve been saying Griffin would break out for the Dukes for the last two seasons. Hopefully, a notable improvement in his return to the Cal Ripken League is a sign of things to come for Griffin who enters his final season at JMU as the starting centerfielder and potential lightning rod for the Dukes’ offense.
Coastal Plains League
(So.) Josh Jones – 7 games, 5-20 (.250 average), .333 OBP. Jones didn’t play at all last season with the Dukes and it’s good to see him back in action, even sparingly. Reportedly, he will be playing the Woodstock River Bandits of the Valley League, but their transaction log hasn’t reflected any move, yet.
Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League
North Fork Ospreys:
(So.) Dom Cepullio – 14 games, .114 average, .311 OBP, one double. Cepullio saw a lot of time in the outfield has a freshman. The outfield will be crowded in 2020 and young players like Cepullio need to step up and separate themselves.
Rockingham County Baseball League
Broadway Bruins: (Fr.) Noah Cornwell – 1-4 in one game played.