The Bellingham Bells are pleased to announce the addition of the first two infielders to join the 2018 team. Dusty Stroup from Missouri Western State University and Blake Billinger from Valparaiso University will help man the infield for the Bells this coming summer.
Stroup, a six-foot-three-inch shortstop, is currently preparing for his second season with the Griffons after putting on an impressive display as a freshman.
Stroup started 51 out of 53 games during his true freshman year and the majority of the starts came at shortstop. He hit .329 and slugged .514 on the year while blasting six home runs and bringing home 29 runs.
The freshman was tied for the conference lead with six triples on the year and was also named as an All-MIAA honorable mention for his outstanding performance at shortstop that saw him produce a fielding percentage of .933.
"Dusty Stroup is a terrific baseball player,” Bells’ pitching coach Jim Clem said. “As an infielder, Dusty is a tough defender, but he is also very offensive as well. He put up some great numbers last season. Besides his talent, Dusty is known for being a high character individual who plays with a lot of heart. We are confident he'll be a positive presence in our clubhouse too. This kid can really play."
Stroup is originally from Lee’s Summit, Miss. In addition to his conference honorable mention in his first season, he was also named the MIAA Co-Freshman of the year.
Joining Stroup in the Bells’ infield will be Blake Billinger, a junior from Valparaiso.
Billinger is getting set to embark on his first season with the Knights after spending his first two years at Mission College in Santa Clara, Calif.
“Blake is an accomplished hitter, who hits for both average and power,” Clem said. “We are excited about having Blake on our team and we expect him to be a big contributor."
Coming out of high school, Billinger was ranked as the No. 12 first basemen in California and his success transferred over to the junior college level well.
In his first year with Mission College, Billinger was a unanimous first team all-conference selection after slashing .347/.533/.420 while mashing six home runs and driving in 42 runs in 181 plate appearances.
In his sophomore year, Billinger missed the first half of the season, but came back in the second half and continued his success. The first basemen hit .383 with a slugging percentage of .717 and hit four home runs and 13 RBIs in just 60 at bats.
“Both Dusty and Blake will give Bells fans lots to cheer about this summer,” Clem said.
Billinger and Stroup will be looking to help the Bells solidify their infield both offensively and defensively come June 1 when the Bells open the 2018 season.