The Florida Collegiate Summer League officially announced on Monday night that Rich Billings had been earned Manager of the Year honors for the 2021 season. It's the first time that Billings earned the award.
Billings led what many considered the most complete team in the FCSL all season. Despite finishing second in the standings, the pitching staff, which was filled with returners from a success 2020 season, posted an FCSL-best in earned run average (3.24), WHIP (1.26), opposing batting average (.208) and opposing slugging percentage (.283). Offensively, the Leesburg bats woke up over the last three weeks of the season, with every category of the team’s slashing line falling within the top three of the league.
For Billings, the past season was his ninth in Leesburg and seventh in a row, which have all been as the top dog in the dugout. Despite being the winningest coach in Lightning history and having assembled 20-win seasons in all but one, Billings’ teams had been unable to finish the job in the postseason. Entering 2021, Billings had lost in his two championship game/series appearances and held a 6-9 record in the playoffs.
He was able to erase all of that with a strong 2021 postseason. After sweeping the DeLand Suns in two games to advance to a second consecutive championship, his team found themselves on the brink of elimination after losing at home to the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs. The Lightning then become the first time in FCSL history to come back from a 1-0 series deficit and win a series, defeating the Dawgs at Bishop Moore in game two before steamrolling them in game three (Note: the league switched from a single-game championship to a three-game series prior to the 2018 season).
Billings became the third ever FCSL head coach to win more than 150 regular season games, a mark he surpassed this season. His four postseason victories also put him in double digits over his coaching career in the FCSL, making him just one of four skippers to ever accomplish that. His 168 wins are third all-time, just 33 behind former DeLand Suns manager Rick Hall, who holds the league record.
The league continues to announce it’s 2021 award winners this week. You can see the updated list on the league site at http://www.floridaleague.com/view/fcsl.
Matias Weilmann (Ithaca College)