KANSAS CITY , Kan. – The Sioux City Explorers announced that pitcher Justin Vernia has been named the 2018 American Association Rookie of the Year. It is the first time that the Sioux City Explorers have had a member of their team be named Rookie of the Year since the American Association began handing out the award in 2011.
Vernia was signed by the Sioux City Explorers on Aug. 5, 2017. He made only six starts with the X’s in 2017 going 3-2 with an ERA of 6.11. Not reaching the qualified innings needed to pitch to break out of rookie status he entered 2018 still as a rookie.
For the Explorers in 2018 Vernia has been nothing short of excellent. In 20 starts this season he has posted a 12-2 record with an ERA of 3.32. The 12 victories this season had him tied with Kansas City T-Bones ace Tommy Collier for the most in the league and the ERA was fourth in the American Association.
Vernia also racked up 119.1 innings in those 20 starts and ended up with 91 strikeouts during the season and issued only 22 free passes. During the season the Explorers held a record of 18-2 in games that Vernia was on the mound. The only two losses coming on his first and final starts of the season. He was also able to rack up 11 quality starts on the season.
This is the third time this season that Vernia has been recognized for his talents. He was also named pitcher of the week for Sioux City for the week ending on Aug. 5. During that week he was 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA, in 14 innings, allowing only 10 hits and 2 runs while only 1 was earned. He struck out 15 and walked only 2 batters.
He was also awarded the pitcher of the month award for his outstanding efforts for the month of June. During which he made five starts and went 4-0 with an ERA of 2.64 as he worked 30.2 innings and struck out 29 and walked only 5.
Vernia becomes the fourth pitcher in league history to be named rookie of the year, the first since Michael Zouzalik of St. Paul in 2015.
Prior to joining the Explorers, Vernia spent his first two collegiate seasons pitching for Tacoma Community College where he went a perfect 22-0, earning NWAC West Division MVP, while also being named first-team All-NWAC both seasons. The Spokane, Washington native finished his collegiate career at Gonzaga University, earning WCC All-Academic honorable mention accolades as a senior, going 7-3 in 14 starts with a 3.11 ERA. In his four collegiate seasons, Vernia owns an impressive 30-5 record, including nine complete games and five shutouts, to go along with his 2.72 career ERA.