In a twist this season, the top pitcher will be known as the county’s Cy Young award winner, in honor of the winningest pitcher in baseball history.
And for the second year in a row, West Wilkes’ Riley Ledford takes home the county’s top pitching honor.
Despite missing two weeks of the season with an injury, Ledford showed no signs of a sophomore slump. The Mountain Valley Athletic Conference’s Pitcher of Year went 6-1 (after going 11-0 as a freshman) with a 0.91 earned run average in 61 ¹⁄³ innings pitched and 83 strikeouts. Ledford’s only loss of the spring came in the third round of the North Carolina High School Association playoffs.
For the second-straight year, Ledford went undefeated in MVAC at 5-0.
While he was selected for his pitching prowess, Ledford also batted .317 with 20 hits and 19 runs batted in.
“Riley was the most dominant arm in the conference and defeated the league runner-up (Wilkes Central) twice, including in the conference tournament championship,” said West Wilkes Head Coach Drew Ward. “He did a great job of consistently throwing strikes throughout the season.”
Colton Stotler took home the county’s Silver Slugger, which is given annually to the best offensive player in each league.
Stotler had the county’s highest batting average (.438) and tied for the most hits with 32.
The junior shortstop finished with three home runs and 29 RBIs. He also sported an impressive .610 on-base percentage thanks to drawing 21 walks and being hit 11 times.
“Colton was a force in the middle of our order and was probably considered our biggest offensive weapon by our opponents,” said Ward. “He played a good defensive shortstop and improved throughout the year through his work ethic and competitiveness.”
The race for the county’s Most Valuable Player award was so tight that there are co-MVPs in Wilkes Central’s Skylar Brooks and West Wilkes’ Braxton Church.
Brooks, who will suit up for East Carolina University this fall, was a key contributor for the Eagles — both at the plate and on the mound.
After missing a majority of the 2018 season with an injury, the senior batted .386 with 29 hits, which included a county-best four home runs and 26 RBIs.
On the base paths, Brooks was 15-for-15 in stolen bases.
Brooks also saw extended time on the mound this spring as he made seven appearances, which included four starts. He sported a 3-1 record with a pair of saves and sported a 0.88 earned run average.
But Brooks, who was named the MVAC’s Player of the Year, saved his best for last when he pitched a complete-game shutout in the Eagles’ 4-0 win against Rutherfordton-Spindale Central in the first round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association playoffs. Brooks struck out 11 and allowed three hits.
In addition to being Wilkes County’s lone North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association all-state selection, he was the only conference player selected to either the 2A or 1A squad.
“Skylar hit the ball well and was big for us in the leadoff spot, getting on base and allowing other guys to drive him in,” said Wilkes Central Head Coach Terry Johnson.
Church, who recently committed to Appalachian State, batted. 432 with one home run and 28 RBIs. Church collected 32 hits and also drew 22 walks.
As the Blackhawks’ catcher, the sophomore also caught 67% of base stealers. According to Ward, only two teams all season attempted more than two stolen bases against him.
“Braxton was one of our biggest team leaders and was a weapon behind the plate,” said Ward. “He changed the game more than any other player in our conference when you include his bat, glove and arm behind the plate and game calling. He is a hard worker and will continue to do big things.”