Last Wednesday, Thomas Dale High alum Collin Fleischer made history.
In what ended up being a dramatic walk-off 9-7 victory over Virginia Tech, the senior got the VMI Keydets’ bats started with a solo home run in the first inning. That round-tripper gave him 42 for his career at the Southern Conference college and set a new school standard.
“Collin is one of the strongest kids to come through Thomas Dale,” coach Chris Marshall said. “I figured his power would continue at VMI. I remember when he played for me that everybody in the park would stop to watch him take batting practice. He’s a special talent and a great kid.”
During his career at Thomas Dale, Fleischer blasted 10 home runs in 176 at-bats. His name was a constant on all-conference, all-region and all-state lists, and he was a three-year starter after getting little playing time as a freshman for the Knights.
Other career statistics include a .403 batting average, 22 doubles, 61 runs batted in and 60 runs scored.
At VMI, Fleischer was a part-time starter as a freshman, managing four home runs and 25 RBIs over 38 games.
Since his sophomore season, he’s been a full-time starter, hitting 15 home runs as a sophomore and 17 as a junior. With about 20 games left on the docket in his senior season, Fleischer has eight homers.
In 2017, his power was on display in a three-game series with Radford in which he homered in each game. Radford, by the way, has developed into an excellent baseball program in recent years.
Fleischer’s versatility was something that Marshall valued at Thomas Dale, and that has translated to the college level as he’s played outfield, first base and designated hitter for the Keydets. Notably, Fleischer has the highest fielding percentage of any starter (.991).
“He’s always been versatile and aggressive, high school through college,” Marshall said.
Other area talent
VMI’s roster is loaded with talent from Chesterfield County.
Infielder/pitcher Nathan Eaton is also a Thomas Dale High grad and a redshirt sophomore for VMI. He’s hitting .288 with eight home runs this season and pitching effectively in relief. He leads the team with a 3.93 Earned Run Average to go with two saves.
Also a former Knight, Corey Johnston comes out of the bullpen for the Keydets and has pitched to a 3-0 record in 18 appearances.
Two Cosby High grads – Jake Huggins and Matt Pita – are starters for VMI, while James River High graduate Josh Winder is possibly their best starting pitcher.
To further the team’s ties to the area, former Prince George High standout and Oakland Athletics’ professional Sam Roberts is an assistant coach at the school. Roberts is the son of longtime Prince George High coach Mickey Roberts.
Fleischer will lead VMI down the stretch run to the Southern Conference Tournament, which starts May 22.