The bad news for the rest of the league? The Patriots’ Paul Blackburn and the Falcons’ Madison Williams are back.
A look at some of the BVAL’s top arms:
Paul Blackburn, Heritage
Named league MVP as a junior last season, Blackburn went 8-3 with a 1.27 earned run average and 84 strikeouts. The Arizona State-bound senior has impressed in his first four appearances this season – one of which was a complete-game shutout of Miramonte, where he fanned 11 Matadors.
Ricky Delgado, Deer Valley
Delgado, who has earned a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton, has an ace’s frame – 6 feet 2 inches, 215 pounds – and the power arm to back it up. He went 5-2 last season and led the Wolverines in strikeouts with 58. In his first three games this year, Delgado has already racked up 20 K’s in 16.2 innings.
Shelbi Graifman, Antioch
Graifman, a sophomore, earned second-team all-BVAL honors last season as a centerfielder. Now that Paris Imholz is at Bowling Green State, the Panthers will look to Graifman to provide leadership in the circle. She earned the decision in Antioch’s first win of the season, a 10-2 victory over Las Lomas.
Joe Navilhon, Freedom
Next year, Navilhon will join Delgado as a Titan teammate, but they remain rivals for now. Navilhon led Freedom as a junior with a 1.80 ERA and 52 strikeouts. He’ll be the Falcons’ No. 1 pitcher this year and contribute timely hitting as an infielder when he’s not on the mound.
Lisa Rodrigues, Heritage
Rodrigues was an essential component of the Patriots’ quest to unseat Freedom as league champs last season, and she was rewarded with a scholarship to New Mexico. She fanned 162 batters in 125 innings, holding hitters to a .177 average. Rodrigues started this year with three wins and 29 strikeouts.
Tyler Vistalli, Deer Valley
Vistalli, Delgado and senior Jacob Peters give the Wolverines one of the best pitching staffs in the North Coast Section. Vistalli earned a spot in the rotation last season as a sophomore, accruing a scant 1.77 ERA and striking out 46 batsmen while walking only 15. Now a junior, he’s thrown 15 strikeouts in his first 13.2 innings.
Madison Williams, Freedom
The youngest in the proud Williams family pitching tree for the perpetual BVAL champ Falcons, Madison showed last season that she’s one the league’s elite pitchers. Last season, she whiffed 199 batters, walking only 35 and amassing nine shutouts. Williams has kept the opposing score side blank in her first two outings this season.
Stevan Zaharias, Liberty
Zaharias will provide the Lions senior leadership on the mound this year. Though he didn’t pitch much in 2011, manager Seth Wheelock believes Zaharias has the stuff to lead Liberty’s pitching staff this year. Zaharias started the Lions’ first win of the season, over Bear Creek, and struck out four.