06/05/2009 – Daily News Record
VBL Team Opens Tonight Written By Marcus Helton HARRISONBURG – The players are here – well, most of them, anyway – and ready or not, the Harrisonburg Turks are set to go to work for the summer. The newest edition of the Turks – a collection of college baseball players from across the country – is scheduled to make its Valley League debut tonight on the road against defending champion Luray, despite having only practiced together since Tuesday. "It’s good to play with a bunch of different guys," Troy junior pitcher Chris Sorce said this week. "You play with your regular team the whole school year, and then you get to go play more baseball with a bunch of new guys. You get to see how other people play baseball and compete against other conferences and play with guys that you know you’re not going to see regularly. It’s a good time to make new contacts and network." And, of course, win some baseball games. "I think we’re going to be OK," Turks owner/manager Bob Wease said. "I think we’re going to have a little bit better team than what we had last year. Of course, we got started off slow last year, but at the end of the season, we were OK." The Turks went 20-27 last summer, losing to Luray in the first round of the VBL playoffs. Wease attributed his team’s slow start to not having many of the players he anticipated early on. That hasn’t been the case so far, he said, noting that the only players missing are Florida State sophomores Jack Posey and Parker Brunelle and Arizona freshman outfielder Shaun Cooper, all of whom he expects at some point. FSU hosts Arkansas in an NCAA Super Regional today. "It takes a week or two weeks for these guys to come together and know each other where you can rib each other or cut up," Wease said, "and that’s a big thing on a baseball team. It’s summer baseball, and that’s what we’re here for; we’re here to make friends and have fun, but win, too. Winning creates fun, so hopefully, that’s what happens." Beyond fun, players hope to hone their skills and attract the attention of professional baseball scouts. Though a step below the Cape Cod League, the VBL is still a respected summer circuit for collegians. Wease said he’s especially excited about his pitching staff, which returns Garrett Parker, now back for his third tour of duty in Harrisonburg. Parker went 8-1 with a team-leading 100 strikeouts at Oklahoma City University this spring. Wease is also expecting big things from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College pitchers Clint Dempster and Drew Granier, as well as hard-throwing right-hander Aaron Luchterhand, a sophomore from Australia by way of Redlands Community College in Oklahoma. Rounding out the pitching staff are Sorce, former Turner Ashby High School star Tyler Milstead (Ferrum), Oklahoma City sophomore Brad Riddle, Lamar junior Matison Smith, Portland sophomore Ed Wakefield, Southeastern University sophomore Gabriel Grinder, Florida Gulf Coast sophomore Tim Kiley and four players from Bethune Cookman: sophomores Joey Munoz and Roman Lancara and freshmen Rayan Gonzales and Ali Simpson. Simpson was named to Louisville Slugger’s Freshman All-America team after going 9-2 with a 3.23 ERA and 79 strikeouts. Those pitchers will be throwing to a trio of catchers that include Florida State’s Brunelle, Richmond junior Evan Stehle and Louisburg College (N.C.) sophomore Garrett Alexander. Also in the infield are Posey – the younger brother of former FSU star Buster Posey – ex-Turner Ashby standout Daniel Heatwole (Hagerstown Community College), Arizona sophomore Bobby Brown, Oklahoma State junior Nathan Bryan, Richmond junior Victor Croglio, East Tennessee State freshman Garrett May, UNC-Greensboro sophomore Raymond Quinones, and Tampa junior Mike Schwartz. In the outfield are Arizona’s Cooper – a sophomore – and Arizona junior Bobby Coyle, New Orleans junior Ryan Eden and St. Joseph’s junior Nathan Weglarz. "It’s hard to say who’s going to be starting and whose going to not be starting at this point," Wease said. "You’ve got to give them all a chance, and then we’ll decide. Of course, everybody plays; nobody comes out here to sit for the summer, that’s for sure."