06/15/2011 – Turks Tidbits
Written by Nathaniel Stoltz James Madison University Harrisonburg, VA – In their return home after a season-long five-game road trip, the Turks were defeated by the Winchester Royals 5-4 in 12 innings Wednesday night, their first loss at Veterans Memorial Stadium in the 2011 season. Both teams now have season records of 8-3.
The night got off to a bad start for the Turks and starting pitcher Aaron Luchterhand. Winchester shortstop K’shawn Smith led the game off with a single to center field. The next batter, center fielder Ben Hammer, hit a double to deep center field, and the throw into third base got past third baseman Ty McFarland, allowing Smith to scamper home before the Turks had even recorded an out. Two batters later, designated hitter Nathan Minnich ripped a single to score hammer and put Winchester up 2-0.
Luchterhand, who has been stellar on the mound in 2011, settled down after that, throwing four straight scoreless innings. The Turks were eventually able to erase the deficit when star left fielder Dodson McPherson took a 3-2 fastball from Winchester starter Jacob Palese and launched it high over the center field wall, a two-run homer to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Winchester broke through against Luchterhand again in the sixth, getting a run without getting a hit; a walk, error, bunt, and sacrifice fly made it a 3-2 contest. But Harrisonburg struck back in the bottom o the inning. With two outs and runners on second and third, designated hitter Colby Roberts hit a soft grounder in front of the plate that Winchester relief pitcher Matt Robin was slow to field. Robin’s throw to first appeared to be just a millisecond too late to get Roberts, but compounding the problem for the Royals was the fact that first baseman Alex Lakatos was unable to hang on to the ball, allowing it to get past him and letting both runners score and putting Harrisonburg on top 4-3.
Reliever Dominic Sgroi entered the game for Harrisonburg in the seventh to relieve Luchterhand. Sgroi was sharp on the mound for 1 2/3 innings, and in particular, his changeup was fantastic, but he made one mistake: a fastball over the plate to Minnich that was hit well over the right field wall to tie the game at 4-4 in the top of the eighth. From there, reliever Pat Christensen held the Royals at bay for 3 1/3 innings, while a whole host of Royals relievers – Robin, Anthony Gotelli, Andrew Pettit, Lincoln Rassi, and Tyler Backstrom, proved tough on the Turks. Harrisonburg’s biggest threat came in the bottom of the eleventh inning, when they loaded the bases for cleanup hitter Mac Williamson, but he grounded into an inning-ending double play.
In the top of the twelfth, the Turks moved third baseman Ty McFarland to the mound, and he walked left fielder Brady Wilson, who was bunted to second. After an intentional walk to Hammer, second baseman Gibby Briones lofted a soft fly ball to center field in between Turks defenders Sam Dove and Jay Gonzalez, scoring what proved to be the deciding run in the 5-4 win. McFarland took the loss for Harrisonburg, while Backstrom picked up the win for Winchester.
Even in defeat, the Turks had a number of standouts. McPherson homered, of course, and second baseman Dove was extremely impressive as well, singling in his last three at bats and making two highlight-reel plays in the field with a sliding catch in right and a diving stop on a ground ball. He also stole a base in the game. McFarland singled, doubled, and worked two walks. First baseman Chris Marconcini had three hits, and Roberts had two of his own.
Most of the Royals’ damage came from the top four spots in the batting order, as Smith and Hammer had two hits apiece, Briones had the deciding single, and Minnich had three hits, including the Royals’ only homer, and a walk.
Even with the loss, the Turks remain in the Central Division lead. They play at the Vet again at 7:30 tomorrow night, hosting Staunton.