HARRISONBURG — The New Market Shockers are again near the bottom of the Rockingham County Baseball League standings, but at least there’s some potential attached to the team’s woes this year.
The Shockers are young, especially on the mound, where their pitching staff could be confused for a boy band.
“This is the first year I’ve had this much pitching, as far as starters,” said ninth-year manager Smokey Veney.
Stability is the key in the RCBL — and if the Shockers can develop and keep their pitching depth, success might be on the horizon.
The average age of the six pitchers to start for New Market so far this year is just over 19. Fittingly, 19-year-old Jamie Miller, a former East Hardy High School star who just completed his freshman year at Potomac State College, has been the best of the bunch so far.
A 6-foot-3 left-hander, he has started three of the Shockers’ eight games (nobody else has started more than one) and leads the team with a 1.96 ERA in 18 1/3 innings.
“He’s pitched a lot of innings, so his stamina is real good,” Veney said. “He strikes out a lot of batters. He’s got good stuff. He has a tendency to sometimes not focus and walk some batters, but when he’s in the game, he’s really tough.”
Despite that occasional lack of focus, Miller, who features a curveball and developing changeup along with his signature heat, has walked just five batters and has struck out 22.
Miller was a co-ace with fellow southpaw Kirk Messick last season — his first with the Shockers. The veteran Messick is no longer with the team, meaning that Miller is now its undisputed stopper.
The two games New Market (2-6) has won so far this summer were both with Miller pitching. In his other start, he allowed six runs — all unearned — in five innings against Montezuma.
Joining Miller on the young staff are Patrick Bankemper, Tyler Campbell, Brandon Duarte, Colton Harlow, Cameron Smith and Ryan Tierney.
Bankemper, a rising senior at Liberty, also pitched at Potomac State College, where he played in the 2011 Junior College World Series before transferring.
Duarte, from Fall River, Mass., is in the area taking classes at Shenandoah University, where he will play next season. Campbell is also a Hornet.
“That’s something that we really needed to get started,” Veney said of mining for talent at Shenandoah, an Old Dominion Athletic Conference program. “It’s hard for us to try to recruit from the other end of the county, because most of the guys want to stay around and pitch for Clover Hill or Bridgewater or Montezuma.”
Campbell was solid in his lone performance of the season — allowing two runs in six innings against first-place Stuarts Draft in a 5-2 loss.
That’s all too often been the case for the Shockers.
“We need to start hitting,” Veney said. “Our hitting hasn’t been there, really. We basically have a couple of guys that are getting hits. Now we’ve got a couple that are starting to come on. Hopefully, we’re putting it all together and can score some runs for the pitchers.”
New Market’s leading hitter is Josh Veney, who is batting .429 but has only one extra-base hit in 19 plate appearances. The Shockers are the league’s only team without a home run.
Veteran infielder P.J. Hinson (.348), Smith (.316) and ironman shortstop Zach Stiles (.304) all have been productive contact hitters, but with minimal power.
New Market has failed to win a playoff series the past two years after being swept out of the semifinals by eventual champion Clover Hill in 2010. The Shockers aren’t a favorite to make it back to the semis this August, but maybe in the future.