Andrus Shines for Turks In First VBL Season
Written By Josh Walfish
Harrisonburg – Ty Andrus never had a true summer baseball league experience after his first two collegiate seasons.
At this time last year, the Harrisonburg Turks utility man was working at a summer camp in North Carolina while completing his transfer to Wingate University in Wingate, N.C. The summer before, he was playing for the HiToms Locos, an affiliate of the Coastal Plans League’s High Point-Thomasville HiToms, which played local amateur teams around North Carolina.
For the first time in his life, the Wionston-Salem, N.C., native has a chance to focus solely on baseball this summer, and he said he is soaking up ever second of it.
“It’s fun to be out here and play every day and just have this be your full-time job during the summer,” Andrus said before the Turks’ 4-3 win Thursday over Front Royal at Veterans Memorial Park. “I’ve never really gotten the chance to play in summerball like a lot of the other college guys do, and just to be able to experience the full summer worth of baseball and have it be your joy has been an enjoyable experience.
It has certainly helped that Andrus has impressed in his first season in the Valley Baseball League.
The rising senior at Division II Wingate was leading all active Turks entering Thursday with a .344 batting average and a .418 on-base percentage with hits in 24 of his first 30 games this season. It has been a continuation of the success he had in his first season at Wingate where he led the Bulldogs with a .366 batting average, 37 runs scored and a .441 on-base percentage while starting 48 of the team’s 50 games.
He was named the South team’s most valuable player in the Valley Baseball League All-Star Game after going 4-for-5 at the plate and earned a spot on the VBL’s showcase team that went to Kannapolis, N.C., to play all-star teams from other summer collegiate baseball leagues.
In front of his parents and grandparents, Andrus batted 4-for-8 to lead the VBL to a pair of victories in the tournament.
“My swing has gotten exactly where I want it to be this summer,” Andrus said. “My swing is so short and compact because I’m just looking to put the ball in play and that it’s mainly based on my hands. I’ve been able to figure that out just getting live at-bats and figuring out where my hands need to be and my timing and all that stuff.”
Andrus had an 11-game hitting streak snapped during Sunday’s 7-5 win over New Market, but he followed with a 4-for-5 night against Woodstock on Wednesday to give him multiple hits in seven of the 10 games he’s played in July.
Harrisonburg manager Bob Wease said it’s not a surprise that Andrus’ best stretch of baseball has coincided with the Turks’ recent surge in the last three weeks. He said his leadoff hitter sets the tone for the rest of his lineup both at the plate and in the field, playing both center field and second base.
“Ty is the catalyst on this team. He’s what makes us go,” Wease said. “Anytime you have a player like Ty, what happens is it rubs off on the other players. You see him run on the field, you see him steal bases, you see him bunt, you see him hustling every play and that does to the other players, it shows them they have a leader. Ty is the leader on our team. It carries over to the other players and makes us a better team.”
For most of his senior year at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, Andrus didn’t think he was going to play college baseball. He planned to enjoy the college experience as a student before the coaches at Catawba Valley Community College showed up at his final three high school games.
Their interest in him was enough for Andrus to enroll, and he went on to set several program records. His .414 average in two seasons with the Red Hawks was the school record for career batting average when he left the school, and he still holds program records for at-bats (01), hits (88) and stolen bases (32) in a season.
“People knock JUCO, but some of the JUCOs out there, especially us, we can beat any team out there,” Andrus said. “I wasn’t too worried about going JUCO and I got where I wanted to be. It was a great experience and we definitely played some good baseball.
The biggest attribute that has followed Andrus wherever he has played is his ability to avoid strikeouts. With a compact swing designed to spray singles around the field, Andrus’ six strikeouts entering Thursday were tied for the fewest among VBL hitters with at least 50 at-bats.
“Ty is a gamer,” Wease said. “He comes to the field every day to play (and) he’s hard-nosed. I know he’s small, but hopefully Ty will get a chance to play pro baseball. He’s the best ballplayer I have right now on this team.”