In part 2 of the “Shoes to be Filled” series I’ll be discussing 4 more of the players that the 2010-2011 Pirates will be replacing.
In response to a couple questions I’ve gotten, these players are listed in number order, and their career stats can be found at http://www.cvccbaseball.com/. Just click the stats link on the right hand side to be whisked away to the ACCC stats page.
Here are part 2’s shoes to be filled:
Ryan Holland, SS/3B – You could probably argue that Holland was the best all around player in the ACCC this past season. The ironic part is that we got him from Georgia College, where he’d spent one year red-shirting and another on the bench with very limited playing time. I’m not sure who they had in front of him, but they must have been damned good, because he spent the entire year in our 3 hole and spent time starting at both short stop and third base. As a matter of fact, he was the only player this past season to start every single game we played. “Hollywood” banged out a .358 average, while leading the team with an incredible 67 runs, 63 runs batted in, 12 doubles, and 40 walks. He also led the club with 11 homers, 5 of which were grand slams, and if that weren’t astounding enough, 3 of them came in consecutive games in a series against ACCC South rival Wallace-Dothan. In that series alone, he went 7-12 with 13 RBI’s and was named National Player of the Week for NJCAA DI. All Conference selections have yet to be made, but along with several other Pirates, Holland should be a lock for the team. In addition to his gaudy numbers in traditional categories, Holland also made opposing pitchers work harder than any other player on the CV roster, and almost certainly, the entire country. Holland saw an average of 4.6 pitches per at bat and an amazing 1081 total pitches. I’ll go a little deeper into the importance of this stat later in my blog, but anyone that’s been around our ball club for the past few years knows that I hold this particular number in high esteem. Defensively we couldn’t have asked for much better either. He played both short and third as close to flawlessly as you could ask from a player, and there wasn’t a play he couldn’t make. Holly wasn’t just a numbers machine for us this year though… He is a true student of the game. Only a few other players that have come through Chatt Valley have had as high a baseball IQ as Ryan has. His instincts were incredible, and his ability to see the game happening and react properly were second to none. With all of that said about the guy, he never tried to be bigger than the game, never had to be told to get after it (that means hustle and work hard), and never hesitated to offer or ask for help. Ryan was a special player and his presence in the lineup and in the dugout will surely be missed. He has signed to play for the University of Maryland next fall.
Chris Graves, RHP – Any coach, manager, or baseball analyst will tell you that any team without reliable pitching out of the bullpen isn’t gonna be much of a factor in the standings. Fortunately, we had “Fun-Guy”. The name Fun-Guy was coined by yours truly this fall after spending just a few weeks with Graves. Always quick to laugh or tell a joke, Graves immediately made a impact for us in the dugout and on the mound. The most difficult decision with Chris was how to use him. Usually, when a pitcher arrives in college he quickly falls into a role in which he excels. In Graves’ case, he literally excelled in all of them. We could have used him as a starter, reliever, or a closer, and most likely, the results would have been just as good. Is it was, we felt that he could have the greatest impact as the first guy out of the bullpen. I’ll have to give us a little credit here: We were dead on. Chris appeared in 18 games (second on the club), posted a 4-2 record with 40 strikeouts against only 12 walks in 46 and 2/3 innings. In one of his few starts, he even tossed a 4 hit shutout against Andrew College. He also turned in a clutch performance against ACCC rival CACC in the series opener with them by allowing only 2 hits in 15 at bats with 6 K’s over 4 innings of relief work to claim a huge win for us. The best thing about Graves was that he always wanted the ball. Win or lose, good or bad, he never shied away from the game and always went out there to compete. He may have even made one of the three best plays of the year, scooping up a base-hit bunt attempt right off the third base line and then finishing the play with a Derek Jeter-esque jump throw to nail the runner at 1st and end the inning. Chris has signed to play at Columbus State University next fall.
Ryan Noelte, OF – Noelte is one of the best stories we’ve had in my six years at CV. He barely played in high school, and he was essentially cast off as a guy with athleticism that never really planned out. He’d made plans with a friend to go to Kennesaw State University and give up baseball when by chance, he decided to come to our open tryout in May of 2008. If you’ve been following this blog, you know what my thoughts on open tryouts are. Noelte is the reason every team should keep having them… He shows up to our tryout, runs a 6.6 60, smashes every pitch in BP, and THEN goes out and pumps 88 off the mound from the left side! I looked at Adam and said “Holy shit, where’s this guy been??” Obviously, we decided to give Nolt a shot. Now, I do have to say, he didn’t quite pan out on the hill for us, but for a guy that apparently wasn’t good enough (yeah right...) to play in high school, he didn’t waste much time pounding out 61 hits and a .401 batting average his freshman year. All told, he finished his Pirate career with a .364 batting average, 96 total bases, 14 steals, and 61 runs scored. He also used that 6.6 speed to hawk down balls in left and center field, and he probably scored from first base more than any other player in the league. Ryan is also one of the most genuinely good guys you’ll ever meet. He’s the first guy to come pat someone on the back, and I’ve never met a soul that didn’t speak highly of him. I think it’s safe to say that the most difficult thing to replace with Nolt leaving is his personality. He has signed to play at Valdosta State University next fall.
Grason Wiggins, SS – Wiggy will be the first guy to tell you that he’s been around the block when it comes to collegiate baseball. I think he’d also be the first to tell you that in Chatt Valley, he finally found a home. After spending a red-shirt year at the University of Louisville, he spent a semester at Chipola Junior College before playing his freshman year at Pensacola Junior College. While at Pensacola, Grason signed to play at Charleston Southern University, but transfer requirements left him without a place to play last fall. Fortunately for us, when he learned that Charleston Southern wouldn’t be an option for him , he gave us a call. Playing primarily short stop, but spending some time at both second and third, Wiggy hit a solid .331 with 3 bleezies, 2 of which were game winners (one was a walk off), and he drove in 27 runs while scoring 37. Grason also flashes a pretty slick glove, too. His defensive play was so good, outstanding in fact, that we made a permanent move mid way through the year with Wiggins taking the full time reigns at short and Ryan Holland sliding over to third. In the regular season series against CACC, Wiggins made no less than 5 game saving plays including an amazing diving stop up the middle to start a 6-4-3 double play to end a threat and seal a victory. Grason’s range, quickness, and smooth hands were the class of the ACCC, and his ability to make plays in tight situations are going to be welcome additions at the next stop in his career. Off the field, his intelligence, sense of humor, and good heart make him a well liked and very well adjusted young man. Grason has signed to play at the University of South Carolina Upstate next fall.