Four Hokies reflect on successful summer ball experiences

BLACKSBURG – A total of 14 Virginia Tech baseball players saw action this summer across the country and over the past few days four of them were highlighted, those who excelled this past summer for their respective teams during their summer ball experiences, with a brief Q&A. The entire recap of the 14 men who played this summer is now available below - with the four highlighted first followed by the remaining 10.

Stevie Mangrum – Wisconsin Woodchucks, Northwoods League
Returning junior Stevie Mangrum may have had one of the best summers for a Hokie since Tyler Horan (2012) as Mangrum was named a 2017 Summer Collegiate Third Team All-American by Perfect Game.

The Charlottesville, Virginia native appeared in a total of 65 games during the summer for the Wisconsin Woodchucks and represented Tech and his summer team extremely well. He played in the league’s All-Star Game, participated in the Home Run Derby and was also chosen to play in the Major League Dreams Showcase. He was named the Star of Stars Winner (all-star game MVP) after a 2-for-3 night with a double, two RBI and a run scored, and was also selected to the Northwoods League Postseason All-Star Team as an outfielder.

Mangrum finished the summer with a .325 (83-for-255) batting average with 18 doubles, two triples and 12 home runs, scored 53 times and added 51 RBI. He also drew 36 walks and was hit by two pitches for a .408 on-base percentage and was 11-of-16 on stolen base attempts. During the regular season, Mangrum led the Woodchucks in average (.324), games (63), at bats (247), runs (51), hits (80), doubles (16), home runs (12), RBI (48) and walks (35). His 12 home runs were fourth-best in the league and he was one of five players in the league with at least 10 home runs, 45 runs scored and 45 RBI.

Mangrum on his summer ball approach:
“Going up the year before, I got a lot of at-bats close to 240 and this summer, I was right around there as well. With that many at-bats, you can really work on something and stick with it. For me, it was more of an approach – figuring out a routine every day – and over the course of time, 72 games, you can really start to figure out some things that maybe you wouldn’t just figure out in just practices. That was the biggest change in my game that I want to carry to this season.”

Mangrum on his accolades:
“All those things were in the back of my mind, because when I was up there the year before I didn’t get to do any of them. Seeing some of my older teammates from last year do that, I said that when I go up there this summer, I really want to make the All-Star Game, the home run derby, the showcase, so it kind of went all according to plan. It was a lot of fun – the guys you meet, the coaches, the experience – everything about that was really incredible this year.

Mangrum on knowing the league after playing there in 2016:
“Playing there the previous year did actually help. A lot of the guys coming up, it’s kind of a shock to them playing every day and traveling. By doing that the previous year, I kind of knew the routine. I knew when I needed to get myself ready and when to rest my body. So, that was very beneficial for me and that did play a huge role in my success.

“The league will definitely weed out the players who work hard and those who don’t because it’s every day and it’s a grind. If you get a good group of guys looking to get better, at the end of the summer, playing all those games, you will get better.”

Mangrum on moving forward after the success:
“I think I’ve finally found a comfort zone, whether it’s in the outfield and my defense, or finding my approach or my mentality at the plate. I really just want to stick with it – whatever I did this summer and run through the season because I finally have a strong base and I can build from there.

Connor Coward – Butler BlueSox, Prospect League
The next Hokie to be highlighted for his summer exploits is returning senior Connor Coward, who made a jump on the mound for the Hokies in the spring – logging more innings this past season (72.0) than his two previous combined (58.0). The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native took some time off after the season, but joined the Butler BlueSox of the Prospect League halfway through and excelled as he was named the No. 7 Top Prospect in league by Baseball America.

Overall, he appeared in 10 games with five starts, posted a 4-1 record with a 3.38 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 37.1 innings pitched. He was also named a Prospect League All-Star. During the summer’s regular season, Coward had a 4-1 mark in nine games, including four starts and one complete game, posted a 2.97 ERA with 42 strikeouts, second-most on the team, and walked just five in 30.1 innings.

He struck out nine twice and in a 7.0-inning complete game against Chillicothe (July 11), struck out a summer-high 11 batters. He helped the BlueSox to the Prospect League Championship Series, as he tossed 7.0 innings with three strikeouts in no-decision effort at West Virginia in a 5-4 win in game one of the East Division Championship Series.

Coward on his approach to summer ball:
“I planned on doing about a half-and-half, taking some time off and then getting back to it. I had thrown 72 innings throughout the year at Virginia Tech, so I wanted to get about 20 more or so in. So, I took about a month off once our season ended because I was trying to figure out where I was going to go and I was waiting on the draft as well. So, I threw about 35-40 innings om all.”

Coward on playing for Butler for a second straight season:
“I know the whole coaching staff there and the owners really well. So, all I had to do was pick up the phone and call them. But they were actually calling me to see if I wanted to play. What took some time was when Coach (John) Szefc got hired, he was trying to send me up to the Cape (Cod League), but they didn’t have any openings at the time. So, I wanted to just join a team so that I could at least start throwing and not just take a whole month and a half off before heading up to the Cape. But by the time a spot opened up there, I was already at my limit for the season.”

Coward on pitching in the Prospect League:
“Overall, the competition is great there and I think this year it was the strongest it’s probably been since I’ve pitched in it. I was fresh, and I had the experience, I wasn’t coming there new, not knowing what to expect, and I just walked in there in a comfortable state of mind.”

Coward on his approach this fall:
“Coach (Ryan) Fecteau doesn’t believe in shutting guys down completely, but I logged the most innings of the team of anyone, so our plan together that we made up was to give me some live outings, but limited. I will probably pitch live very few innings, but I will still throw bullpens twice a week and still throw normally but just less intense than what other pitchers are doing.”

Tom Stoffel – Battle Creek Bombers, Northwoods League
Second on the list was returning redshirt-senior Tom Stoffel, who had a breakout season for the Hokies in 2017 as he was named All-ACC Second Team in the outfield. The Dayton, Ohio native was one of two Hokies who went to Battle Creek, Michigan (also JD Mundy) and pitched and played in the outfield for the Bombers in the Northwoods League.

Stoffel appeared in a total of 72 games during the summer, which included playing in the league’s All-Star Game and participating in the Home Run Derby. He finished the summer with a .296 (85-for-287) batting average with 22 doubles, a triple and 11 home runs. He scored 46 times, added 62 RBI, drew 28 walks, was hit by four pitches for a .368 on-base percentage, added five sacrifice flies and was 2-of-4 on stolen base attempts.

During the regular season, he led the Bombers in at bats (262), home runs (9-tied) and RBI (55), while the 55 RBI were the fourth most in the league and he was one of five players in the league with more than 40 runs scored and 50 runs batted in.

Overall, on the mound, he appeared in nine games, all out of the bullpen, posted a 2-0 record with two saves, did not allow an earned run in 15.0 innings pitched and had 27 strikeouts opposed to just two walks. During the summer’s regular season, he was 1-0 in seven games, with nine total innings, and struck out 16, while opponents hit just .171 against him. He struck out 11 in six postseason innings and helped Battle Creek to the second-best overall regular-season record in the South Division and a spot in the Northwoods League playoffs.

The Bombers made the league’s World Series for just the second time ever but fell in three games to the St. Cloud Rox. Stoffel was named the Northwoods League Player of the Night several times, including after a 3-for-5 night with two home runs and four RBI that put Bombers in the World Series.

Stoffel on his summer with Battle Creek:
“It was definitely a good summer and I played well throughout it and we ended up making it to the finals. We obviously lost the final game by two, we just didn’t have enough pitching to bring it home, but yeah, we were very close to bringing the championship to Battle Creek and that was awesome to be a part of. It was a lot of fun and got to meet a bunch of guys and that’s probably one of the best parts of summer ball.”

Stoffel on playing alongside Mundy:
“We were together a lot and we would hit in the cages together. We hit back-to-back in the lineup a lot so, that was a good time, showing Battle Creek what Virginia Tech’s about.”

Stoffel on his success on the mound:
“I just had a bulldog mentality on the mound. I just went after them and that seemed to be working for me all summer. Obviously, I threw more toward the end and in the postseason, so you’re facing the best-of-the-best and so you want to bring your best too.”

Stoffel on the Northwoods League:
“The Northwoods League definitely gives you a sense of what it’s like for what minor league baseball is all about. We played something like 77 games in a span of 80 days, so it’s pretty much baseball every day.”

Dylan Hall – Strasburg Express, Valley League
The first Hokie highlighted was returning sophomore Dylan Hall, who played for the Strasburg Express in the Valley League. Hall, who did not join the Hokies baseball program until January, appeared in 17 games for Tech and tossed 23.0 innings.

With Strasburg, he appeared in 12 games with eight starts, posted a 4-1 record with a 2.45 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched. During the summer’s regular season, Hall had a 2-1 mark in nine games and finished second on the team in starts (6) and innings pitched (35.0), and third in strikeouts (35) and ERA (3.34).

Hall helped the Express to the Valley League Championship Series and started the decisive third game. He was 2-0 in the postseason with 10 strikeouts in 12.2 innings and did not allow an earned run. He tossed 5.1 innings with four strikeouts in no-decision effort as the Charlottesville Tom Sox won the title by a score of 2-1.

He was one of two pitchers to win two postseason starts and one of two not to allow an earned run (min. 6.0 IP) and one of three that tied for league-lead in postseason innings pitched.

Hall on his first season in Blacksburg:
“Coming in halfway through, it was kind of intimidating at first especially just having to meet 34 new teammates and experiencing college baseball, so it was a big jump from high school to ACC baseball. I think towards the middle to the end of the year, I was getting some really good experience and putting in some good relief outings. I think I went like 12 scoreless, so I was really proud of that. So, I just took that momentum into the summer, and just kept carrying that, my confidence, through the summer."

Hall on translating that to the summer:
“I think I really developed as a pitcher this summer. I feel like what I learned here really helped me in the beginning of the summer, just from the experience of playing in the ACC, it gets you ready for just about anything. I really worked on developing my off-speed pitches and I just pitched with more confidence. I was also used in a starting role and I do feel more comfortable in a starting role and we’ll see what happens this year."

Hall on playing in the Valley League:
“I think the Valley League is a pretty good league, it has a bunch of ACC, SEC players. It’s pretty old, but it’s more for younger players, more of a freshman, sophomore league and for my first summer, I think it was a good experience there.”

Here are the rest of the Hokies' summer ball performers (in alphabetical order):

Nic Enright – Baltimore Redbirds, Cal Ripken League
Started a team-high eight games (tied for the second-most in the league) during the regular season as the Redbirds went 6-2 in those starts … Appeared in 11 games total, including two in the postseason as the Redbirds made the Championship Series of the league … Was named an All-Star and tossed a scoreless inning in the game, striking out all three batters he faced … Finished with a 1-0 mark and a 4.62 ERA in 25.1 innings pitched with 33 strikeouts … Earned his win after pitching 4.0-innings scoreless innings with seven strikeouts against Rockville (June 18) … Struck out six in two other starts.

Sam Fragale – Anchorage Glacier Pilots, Alaska Baseball League
Played in 28 games for the Glacier Pilots, including one start in the postseason … Finished hitting .250 (21-for-83) with one double and a triple … Scored five runs and added nine RBI … Also drew seven walks and was hit by two pitches for a .333 on-base percentage … Added a sacrifice fly, a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base.

Paul Hall, Jr. – Peninsula Pilots, Coastal Plains League
Pitched in 12 games for the Pilots, making three starts … Finished with a 1-3 mark and a 7.27 ERA in 26.0 innings pitched while striking out 27 batters … Earned his win after tossing 5.0 innings with six strikeouts and allowing just three hits and no runs against Wilson (July 2).

Andrew McDonald – Edenton Steamers, Coastal Plains League
Pitched in 22 games for the Steamers, the second most on the team, making a pair of starts … Led the team with five wins, as he went 5-3 with one save while posting a 4.22 ERA and striking out 38 batters in 32.0 innings … Opened the summer league with a win on the mound, starting against Morehead City and striking out five over 5.0 innings (May 30) that earned him the Defensive Line of the Night.

JD Mundy – Battle Creek Bombers, Northwoods League
Appeared in a total of 59 games during the summer, which included playing in the league’s All-Star Game and participating in the Home Run Derby … Finished the regular season with a .281 (59-for-210) batting average with 15 doubles and nine home runs … Scored 39 times and added 41 RBI … Also drew 23 walks and was hit by one pitch for a .350 on-base percentage and added three sacrifice flies … Finished in a tie for first on the team in home runs, tied for third in RBI and was fourth in hits and doubles, and fifth in runs and walks … Helped Battle Creek to the second-best overall regular-season record in the South Division and a spot in the Northwoods League playoffs … The Bombers made the league’s World Series for just the second time ever but fell in three games to the St. Cloud Rox.

Jack Owens – Peninsula Pilots, Coastal Plains League
Played in 11 games for the Pilots, making 10 starts early in the summer … Finished hitting .351 (13-for-37) with two doubles and one home run … Scored 10 times and added six RBI … Also drew seven walks and was hit by three pitches for a .489 on-base percentage and was 6-of-8 on stolen base attempts.

Nick Owens – Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, Northwoods League
Played in 28 games for the team and finished with a .224 (19-for-85) batting average with two doubles … Scored 16 runs and added nine RBI … Also drew 13 walks and was hit by three pitches for a .340 on-base percentage and was 6-of-8 on stolen base attempts … Added a team-high tying five sacrifice bunts and two sacrifice flies.

Graham Seitz – Loudoun Riverdogs, Cal Ripken League
Started eight games (tied for the second-most in the league and on the team) during the regular season for the Riverdogs … Appeared in nine games total … Finished with a 2-3 mark and a 5.34 ERA in a team-high tying 32.0 innings pitched with 22 strikeouts … Earned wins in his final two starts, including his last against the Baltimore Dodgers (July 18), that included a summer-high tying five strikeouts over a summer-high 6.0 innings.

Andrew Webb – D.C. Grays, Cal Ripken League
Played in 15 games for the Grays, hitting .208 (10-for-48), all singles … Scored three times and added four RBI … Also drew four walks and stole a base … Posted 106.1 innings behind the plate and had 84 putouts, nine assists and committed two errors.

Marcus White – Oneonta Outlaws, Perfect Game League
Played in 17 games for the Outlaws, hitting .143 (5-for-35) with one double and one home run … Scored two runs and added three RBI … Also drew three walks, had a sacrifice fly and three sacrifice bunts … Posted almost 100 innings behind the plate and had 81 putouts, eight assists and no errors.

For updates on Virginia Tech baseball, follow the Hokies on Twitter