CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Bridgewater College shortstop Jacob Talley has been one of the Eagles' most consistent performers during his first three years in the program.
This summer, Talley is getting the chance to continue working on his game, playing with the Charlottesville Ton Sox in the prestigious Valley Baseball League (VBL).
During his first three seasons as an Eagle, Talley has a .353 career batting average. His batting averages for those years are .367, .359 and this past season .336. Talley has 153 base hits as he sets his sights on this final season with the Eagles. Talley has also improved defensively each season and this past year posted a solid .948 fielding percentage at shortstop. The Louisa County native earned first-team All-ODAC honors as a junior this past season.
This summer, Talley is playing second base for the Tom Sox and his season is off to a good start. He played in the team's first four games, hitting for a .333 average. In his first game, Talley stroked a base hit in a pinch-hitting appearance. In his first start, he was 1-for-3 with three walks in a win at Staunton. In a victory over Covington, he was 1-for-4 and his two-run double in the first inning staked the Ton Sox to a quick 3-0 lead in a game Charlottesville won 9-3.
Talley has made a quick adjustment to his new defensive position.
"Moving to second base has been a pretty easy transition," Talley said. "You kind of just flip the field. The throws are shorter, but it's not a big difference. I feel comfortable playing there."
He has also made a quick adjustment to a higher level of pitching as the VBL features a high percentage of Division I pitchers.
"The quality of pitching you see each night is definitely better," Talley said. "The velocity is better for sure. But, a fastball is a fastball. Good hitters will adjust to an increase in velocity."
For Talley, the biggest difference is the quality of breaking balls and sliders he will be seeing this summer.
When he signed to play in the Valley League, Talley talked with former Bridgewater College assistant coach Scott Hearn, now head coach at Mary Baldwin University, about playing summer baseball. While a player at Bridgewater, Hearn played two summers with the Covignton Lumberjacks and was a all-star performer in the VBL.
"I talked some with Coach Hearn about the Valley League and about playing summer baseball," Talley said. "He told me the biggest difference would be in the breaking pitches and off-speed pitches I would see during the summer. He said I would see sliders that I don't see in the ODAC and he was right. That's definitely been a big adjustment."
Talley relishes the opportunity to compete in the VBL with and against players from some of the top Division I programs in the nation.
"First, I consider it an honor to play with the Tom Sox," Talley said. "There are a few Division III guys in the league, but this is a chance that not every player gets. To play for a quality organization like the Tom Sox in such a great league is an awesome opportunity."
Playing for the Sox provides another bonus for Talley. The Charlottesville field is a short drive from his hometown, giving friends and family the opportunity to see him play on a regular basis.
"It's pretty cool playing close to home," said Talley. "Hopefully, some of the Louisa fans will make it to our games, not just to support me, but to support the Tom Sox."
Talley believes playing with the Sox will help prepare him for his senior season with the Eagles.
"Playing with and against quality players can only make me better," said Talley. "This gives me a chance to keep playing, work on my game and be ready when I go back to Bridgewater for fall ball.
"We have a new coaching staff and I'm looking forward to playing for Coach (Ben) Spotts. It's up to me and the rest of the seniors to be ready to lead the team when we get back to Bridgewater," Talley said. "It's going to be my final season and I want it to be a good one."