06/04/05 – Daily News Record
Winchester 6-2 Written by Robert Stocks Byrd Newspapers Winchester – Coming into Friday’s Valley Baseball League season opener, Winchester pitcher Peden Rucker hoped to deliver a quality start against Harrisonburg. To do that, Rucker needed to work seven innings and hold the Turks to three runs or less. The sophomore left-hander from South Carolina-Aiken exceeded his expectations. Rucker scattered eight hits and struck out 10 in a complete-game performance as Winchester defeated the visiting Turks 6-2 in the opener for both teams at Bridgeforth Field. Rucker (1-0) struck out the side twice and finished at just over 100 pitches. "I was hoping I’d go at least seven because I only made nine innings one time this year in college," Rucker said. "My fastball was inside and that’s what really worked for me." Josh Thompson went 2-for-4 with an RBI and leadoff hitter Brian Ernst scored a pair of runs to help Winchester (1-0) rally from a 2-1 deficit through six innings. Rucker survived a pitchers’ duel with Turks starter Eric Fussell (0-1), who scattered seven hits and gave up four runs – only one earned – in six innings. Winchester right fielder Josh Cueto doubled off Fussell to lead off the seventh. Jay Barnes fought off Fussell, working an 0-2 count full before delivering a fly to right that moved Cueto to third. Ernst, who reached base safely in all four at bats, walked and shortstop Marc Joehnk’s RBI single tied the game at 2 and finished Fussell’s night. Cam Wheeler entered in relief and the Royals went to work on the base paths. A successful double steak by Ernst and Joehnk put the pressure on the Turks defense. Ernst raced home on a passed ball to put Winchester ahead and Joehnk scored after Wheeler’s wild pitch to give the Royals a 4-2 advantage through seven innings. "We were getting pretty good reads on (Wheeler) and he was pretty slow to the plate," Ernst said. "We just took advantage of it and got guys on second and third there." Winchester added two more insurance runs in the eighth after a pair of Harrisonburg throwing errors. Wheeler walked John Hawse to start the eighth. Jim Leitgeb followed with a bunt down the first-base line and Wheeler’s throw to first sailed high down the right-field line. The errant throw put Hawse on third and Leitgeb moved to second. After Matt Barrett popped out, Hawse scored on a sacrifice fly by Cueto. The throw to the plate to get Cueto was not in time and Turks catcher Matt Sluder’s throw to third saild down the left-field line, allowing Leitgeb to race home to extend the Royal’s lead to 6-2. "The first seven innings we played real well, but we played a little ragged with a couple passed balls or wild pitches (after that)", Harrisonburg manager Bob Wease said. "Those things happen and we’ll come out and play again (tonight). That’s all we can do." After the insurance runs in the seventh, Rucker struck out the side in the eighth and faced just four batters in a scoreless ninth.