After the Brazos Valley Bombers became the Texas Collegiate League’s first repeat champions Tuesday night, the league announced the winners of its annual awards and its All-TCL team.
Four different teams were represented on the slate of major awards, including one winner who made history and another honor that repeated history. All six teams were represented on the All-TCL team, led by six Victoria Generals. The awards were selected by a poll of the league’s coaches.
Connor Barron captured the TCL Player of the Year award after lighting up the scoreboard all season. Barron finished second in the league with a .344 average and tied for fourth with four home runs. He also led the circuit in runs (54) and slugging percentage (.519), tied for the lead in triples (five), and stole a league-leading 34 bases while only getting caught three times. The junior outfielder from Southern Miss enters the playoffs having reach base safely in every regular season game he’s played in July and August, a span of 28 games. The Dinger Bats TCL Player of the Week in Week Six also had a 16-game hitting streak.
This marks the third time in the last four years that a member of the Acadiana Cane Cutters captured the award for top player. Mitchell Nau picked up the honor last season, and Taylor Dugas won it in the Cutters’ 2011 inaugural season.
The TCL Pitcher of the Year honor went to Victoria right-hander Kris Looper, who until his last start owned an ERA below 1.00. He finished a dominating summer leading the league with an ERA of 1.06, racking up four wins against just two losses with one save. Looper appeared in 10 games, five of them starts, and allowed just 33 hits in 50.2 innings. He walked more than one batter in just one game all summer, issuing a total of only five free passes while striking out 44. The junior from Incarnate Word allowed just six earned runs on the season, three of them in his final appearance.
Last season was the first time a major TCL award was split when Blake Kopetsky and Mark Dickey shared Freshman of the Year honors. This year proved to be more of the same, as the Generals’ Pedro Barrios and John Jaeger from the East Texas Pump Jacks share the top rookie award. Barrios earned the honor by batting .270 with 22 runs scored and 19 RBI in 51 games while playing superb defense. The Ranger College middle infielder, who was selected to start at second base in the TCL All-Star Game, finished the season and the playoffs with an eight-game hitting streak.
Jaeger pitched his way to the award, becoming just the second hurler in the last six years to be named the league’s top rookie. The University of the Pacific right-hander went 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 61.1 innings. Despite starting the summer in the bullpen and only making five starts during the season, Jaeger finished second in the league in innings pitched, fifth in ERA, and sixth in strikeouts.
This is the sixth season in a row a Pump Jack has won or shared TCL Freshman of the Year honors after Dickey shared the award in 2013.
The Bombers made history when they became the first back-to-back champions, but their head coach has an impressive streak of his own going. Curt Dixon was named TCL Coach of the Year in a landslide, the first skipper to capture the award three years in a row. The Bombers were atop the league standings wire to wire, finishing with a 42-14 record that nearly matched their historic 46-14 mark a year before. Brazos Valley captured the first and second half division titles, the second year in a row they executed the sweep. Dixon has captained the Bombers for three seasons, and in that span he has won the half-season division title five of six times.
Although the Bombers were the most dominant team during the 2014 season, it was the Generals who landed more All-TCL players than any other squad. Led by Looper and Barrios, Victoria placed a half-dozen players on the year-end all-star team.
Four different teams were represented in the All-TCL infield, including Victoria teammates Barrios at second base and Alvaro Rondon at shortstop. Rondon batted .375 and stole 17 bases in 31 games for the Generals before signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Spence Rahm from the Woodlands Strykers held down first base after finishing fifth in batting at .307 and tied for second with five home runs. The towering Texan also drove in 24 runs and scored 26 more. Across the diamond, Cane Cutters third baseman Chance Vincent earned the nod at third base. Vincent closed the season tied for third in the league with 31 RBI while batting .277 with four homers.
Texas Marshals catcher Carson Shaddy was named the All-TCL backstop after batting .271 with 25 runs scored and finishing in the top-10 with 25 walks.
Barron led an All-TCL outfield that boasts four players from three different teams as a result of a tie in the voting. Victoria teammates Justin Pacchioli and Brian Portelli made up half the outfield after Pacchioli won the batting title with a .370 average, and Portelli finished fourth at .312. Pacchioli also finished fourth in both runs (39) and walks (32), helping him lead the league with a .481 on-base percentage. Portelli beefed up his resume by leading the league with 35 RBI and 21 extra-base hits, and tying for the lead with 13 doubles.
Wrapping up the outfield was James Lear from the Pump Jacks. The dynamic Lear was second to Barron with 32 steals and third in the league with 41 runs scored while batting .270. He had separate stolen-base streaks of five and seven games, and he finished the season on a tear, reaching base safely in his last 18 contests.
The Bombers’ Logan Nottebrok slugged his way to the designated hitter position, batting .339 with four home runs in just 32 games. The two-time Dinger Bats Player of the Week hit two home runs in his debut and scored at least one run in his first 10 TCL games.
While Looper was named All-TCL right-hander, the lefty honor went to Cody Brannon from Brazos Valley. Brannon was second in the league in wins with a 6-1 record, and his 2.48 ERA was good for seventh in the TCL. After falling in his season debut, the Bombers ace found his groove, winning his next two starts and then his final four-straight, as well as the postseason opener.
One of two players who repeated on the team, Gandy Stubblefield from the Strykers returned as the All-TCL reliever. The right-handed closer finished fourth with five saves while going 2-4 with a 3.93 ERA. In just 36.2 innings, Stubblefield finished second in the league with 60 strikeouts, an average of nearly 15 K’s per nine innings.
The new All-TCL utility position, rewarding the best two-way player in the league, was split three way. Taking home utility honors were the Pump Jacks’ Anthony Gonsolin, Dirk Masters out of The Woodlands, and C.J. Pickering from the Generals. Gonsolin tied for the team lead in wins, going 3-1 with two saves and a 3.18 ERA, while adding 17 runs and 10 RBI in 33 games in the outfield. Pickering went 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in five relief appearances, with 19 runs, 12 RBI and a homer in 38 games as an infielder.
Masters, a member of the 2013 All-TCL team at designated hitter, held down the last utility position. In six games, three of them starts, Masters went 2-1 with a 2.38 ERA for the Strykers, striking out 18 in 11.1 innings. At the plate, he batted .245 with a home run and 10 RBI, accruing 10 doubles in just 28 games.
All award winners are listed below.
2014 TCL Award Winners
Player of the Year: Connor Barron, Acadiana
Pitcher of the Year: Kris Looper, Victoria
Co-Freshmen of the Year: Pedro Barrios, Victoria & John Jaeger, East Texas
Coach of the Year: Curt Dixon, Brazos Valley
2014 All-TCL Team
Catcher: Cason Shaddy, Texas
First Base: Spence Rahm, Woodlands
Second Base: Pedro Barrios, Victoria
Third Base: Chance Vincent, Acadiana
Shortstop: Alvaro Rondon, Victoria
Outfield: Connor Barron, Acadiana
Outfield: James Lear, East Texas
Outfield: Justin Pacchioli, Victoria
Outfield: Brian Portelli, Victoria
Designated Hitter: Logan Nottebrok, Brazos Valley
Right-Handed Pitcher: Kris Looper, Victoria
Left-Handed Pitcher: Cody Brannon
Relief Pitcher: Gandy Stubblefield, Woodlands
Utility: Anthony Gonsolin, East Texas
Utility: Dirk Masters, Woodlands
Utility: C.J. Pickering, Victoria