7/15/2006 – Daily News Record
Daily News Record Written By Joe Lemire Dennis’ Infield Single Gives Turks 4-3 Win Over Staunton If the game’s on the line and an infield hit could net the winning run, you’re probably crossing your fingers in hope that David Dennis isn’t coming to bat. But the "Moose" legged out a slow, end-of-the-bat chopper to third base in the bottom of the eighth inning, and Chad Rice’s errant throw sailed behind Dennis and into the Harrisonburg bullpen, allowing pinch-runner Anthony Soto to score all the way from first with the flourish of a slide. The run broke a tie and gave the Turks a 4-3 win over the Staunton Braves in a Valley League baseball game Friday night. "Typically last," said the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Dennis of where he’d rank his speed. "I don’t even put myself on that list." It certainly wasn’t the hit his coach was looking for. "No, I’m looking for the Moose to hit a gap shot, to be honest," Harrisonburg’s Bob Wease said of the first baseman who transferred from San Diego City College to Oklahoma City University. "But the Moose ran down the first-base line hard and drew the bad throw." The late-inning dramatics hardly seemed necessary a mere two innings earlier, considering Turks starting pitcher Tim Wheeler, spotted an early 3-0 lead, was perfect against the first 18 batters he faced. By locating his fastball effectively early in the game, Wheeler set up his breaking pitches in the later innings and finished with 10 strikeouts. So dominant was Wheeler that, as Wease ran out of the dugout to coach third base in the bottom of the fifth, Staunton coach Lance Mauck pleaded with him to "give us a chance," to which Wease replied "We’ve got a long way to go." "I thought we were pretty dead," Mauck said. "With that guy cruising, I thought 3-0 was going to be enough. Yet again, that’s why baseball’s just a crazy game." Mauck merely needed to wait until the leadoff hitter of the seventh, Mike Mitchell, to bloop a ball down the right-field line. Mitchell netted a double and put sudden pressure on Wheeler. "Of course [the perfect game] was in the back of my mind, but I was just trying to get people out and set the team up with a win," said Wheeler, who pitches for Oral Roberts. "It was going good until that seventh inning. I got a little tired, and my clothes were drenched in sweat." After the double, Wheeler was pitching from the stretch for the first time all game. He lost his pinpoint command, allowing one run to score and leaving the bases loaded for reliever Danny Wells, who entered with an abbreviated warm-up and walked in two runs before getting out of the inning. "It was a big factor because this whole last year I didn’t even throw because I was injured, so I got a medical redshirt," Wheeler said. "It’s not my first start, but I can still feel it." The Turks (18-14) did their early offensive damage in the second inning, keyed by an RBI double by catcher Brandon Harrigan. He later scored on a Gary Martoccio groundout. Ryan Rachal also singled and scored in the inning, and the centerfielder from Oklahoma City University went 2-for-2 with two walks during the muggy evening at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The two teams have now completed their eight-game season series tied at four wins apiece. Harrisonburg is comfortably in second place in the Valley League’s Southern Division, while Staunton (13-20) remains in fourth. Staunton 000 000 300 — 3 4 4 Harrisonburg 030 000 01x — 4 6 0 Rule, Svitak (6) and Kearney; Wheeler, Wells (7), Butts (9). W – Wells (3-0). L – Svitak (2-1). Sv – Butts (3). HR – None.