7/31/2006 – Daily News Record
Daily News Record Written By Joe Lemire Staunton Advances With 4-3 Victory The Harrisonburg Turks Ryan Rachal (left) is held up by Staunton’s Braves Matt Hacker (right) in the fourth inning. Rachel then walked to third base thinking fielder’s interference had been called, but was tagged out because the umpire ruled he gave himself up by not running harder. STAUNTON – Rather ironically, no one was walking after Chris Wilkins’ walk-off walk. Wilkins’ Staunton teammates were sprinting to home plate to mob Spike Austin as he crossed the plate with the winning run; the Turks stood in disbelief; and Wilkins couldn’t make up his mind where to go, unsure whether he needed to make the ceremonial trip to first base or not. Rarely has a pitch just low and just inside elicited such strong and varied reactions, but Harrisonburg Justin Wood’s bottom-ninth, bases-loaded, full-count delivery was just wide of the strike zone, pushing home the final run in Staunton’s 4-3 series-clinching win and advancing the Braves to the Valley Baseball League championship series. "I wanted to get a base hit, but whatever works," said Wilkins, a left fielder from Baltimore City Community College, who also had the go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth before the Turks mounted a ninth-inning rally to tie the score at three. The Braves (19-28), who earlier this season endured a 2-18 stretch, are an unlikely participant in the VBL championship series, where they will face either Luray or New Market starting Tuesday or Wednesday. Luray beat New Market 7-1 Sunday in the first game of their best-of-three playoff. Wood, a left-handed pitcher at James Madison, was making his 10th appearance of the summer, though only his second in relief. After relieving Brett Butts, he worked his way out of an eighth-inning jam but loaded the bases in the ninth on two walks and a hit batsman. "At times it’s tough to try not to overthrow and to hit my spots and keep control of my pitches, rather than just throw them up there – I tried to keep my composure as best I could," said Wood, a Turner Ashby High School graduate, who entered with a 4-2 record and 2.92 ERA and wasn’t convinced his final pitch was ball four. "…It’s tough to tell. That call can go either way, any day. I thought it was a strike, and the umpire didn’t. That’s just how it goes – that’s baseball." Right fielder Clint Robinson almost single-handedly kept the Turks (27-20) within a run in the eighth, making a diving, highlight-worthy catch for the first out and beginning a relay to the plate to throw out Wilkins for the second out. Those fielding heroics set up Harrisonburg’s tying run in the ninth. David Dennis hit a one-out single, his second of the evening, and was replaced by pinch-runner Anthony Soto. Matt Denker’s groundball to third baseman Chad Rice should have started a game-ending double play, but Rice’s throw to second sailed into right field and Soto later scored on an RBI single from Kyle Spraker. "We battled the whole way and never gave up," said Dennis, who is transferring to Oklahoma City University. "Just like when we were down 0-6 to start the season, it didn’t faze us." Josh Dew, a Troy University infielder/pitcher who previously had made eight relief appearances for 8 2/3 innings, got the start for the Turks and was brilliant on the mound, relying on his slider to get 10 strikeouts in five innings. He began the game by retiring the first 12 Braves he faced, and the lone run he allowed was a towering solo home run to Tyler Brown in the fifth. Harrisonburg coach Bob Wease said after the game that, since Dew hadn’t started all summer, he was on a strict pitch count of no more than 60. "I’m not going to leave the kid out there to maybe hurt his arm or something like that," Wease said. "He’s probably going to be in the big leagues someday. This ball game is important, but it’s not worth maybe hurting a kid’s arm." Harrisonburg 000 020 001 – 3 8 1 Staunton 000 010 111 – 4 6 3 Dew, Butts (6), Wood (8) and Denker; Bess, Sexton (5), Torcise (9) and McGuire, Kearney (7). W – Torcise (2-0). L – Wood (4-3). HR – S: Brown (6).