Since many Valley League players have their first experience with wood bats in the summer, finding ways to score runs is important. Consequently, there is very little of the Earl Weaver mentality of sitting back and waiting for the three-run home run. Covington loaded up on team speed in 2008, and Coach Andy Chalot used that speed to get the Lumberjacks all the way to the championship series against Luray.
One of the top two batters in the Lumberjack lineup, rising Coastal Carolina sophomore Rico Noel was not only one of the best hitters in the league, but also one of the fastest. He put up amazing numbers at the top of the Lumberjack lineup: 344/410/461, with 27 runs, 10 doubles, an 11/32 BB/K ratio, and a whopping 33 stolen bases in only 34 games. He led the league in stolen bases by a large margin, with 6 more than his teammate Junior Arrojo. In fact, he has the highest number of steals in the past four years in the Valley League (as far back as the league website archives statistics). Noel also finished 4th in batting average, behind only Drew Johnson, Brandon Sizemore, and Tyler Townsend. The league also noticed: Rico was named the 2nd team All-League second baseman.
As a freshman at Coastal Carolina in 2008, Rico hit 240/330/329 in 167 at-bats, with a 19/45 BB/K ratio. Since this was with aluminum, how did he make the quick, successful adjustment to wood? "It really made me keep my swing short and work to the opposite field a lot more," he said. He enjoyed his time in the league, saying with a chuckle, "I felt that the competition was pretty good, and [I] loved my stay in Covington. I had a good time even with the long bus rides."
Well, the long trips sure didn't stop him from stealing bases. Rico looks to start again in the infield for Coastal Carolina this upcoming season- don't be surprised if he puts it all together and starts to garner some pro interest!