06/24/2011 – Daily News Record
Written by Mike Barber Daily News Record
HARRISONBURG – When Sam Dove’s chopper bounced over the bag at third base in the fifth inning, most of the players and fans at Veterans Memorial Park froze. Not Turks manager Bob Wease or the home plate umpire.
The umpire signaled fair – seconds behind an excited Wease – as two runs came in, helping send Harrisonburg to a 6-3 win over Haymarket in a Valley League baseball game Friday in front of one of the largest crowds of the year.
“I saw it a little bit, I think,” Dove said of his hit. “The game pays you back in strange ways. We might have caught a break on that one but we’ll take it.”
The first-place Turks (14-4) – ranked 10th in the nation among summer ball teams by Perfect Game – had managed just one run on two hits through four innings against Haymarket starter Justin Gorski. But in front of a crowd of nearly 1,000 fans, Harrisonburg’s bats woke up in the fifth and sixth, erupting for five runs on eight hits in the two innings.
And it started with Dove’s two-out bouncer over third with the game tied 1-1.
“I honestly thought the ball went across the bag,” Wease said. “I thought it was a fair ball, I really did. I was right there.”
Dodson McPherson (Wingate) followed with an RBI single up the middle that scored Dove, giving the Turks’ a 4-1 lead.
“We came out and I think we were all a little tired,” said Dove, a second baseman from Georgia Tech. “We’ve had some road games lately. Last night was a long game, went into extra innings, and was a long drive back. I think everybody came out kind of flat. We finally woke up and started to put some barrels on the ball.”
Catcher Blake Austin (Auburn) and Dove – who finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs – each drove in runs in the sixth as well to give Harrisonburg all the scoring it would need as it won for the sixth time in the last seven games, stretching its home winning streak to four.
“We’re really a late starting team,” Wease said. “It’s unbelievable. We’ll get behind 1-0. In the fifth, sixth, seventh inning its like we go into overdrive or something.”
That was plenty of run support for left-hander Niko Spezial, who turned in his longest outing of the summer, pitching into the eighth inning against Haymarket (6-11).
Spezial (Wake Forest) missed the beginning of the Valley League season after cutting his left pinky finger helping his father clean out the family’s garage in New Jersey, days before traveling to Virginia. He got his stitches out June 9 in Harrisonburg, then made his first start two days later against the same Haymarket team he faced Friday.
“They came out 8:45 Thursday morning and I was on the field throwing a bullpen that afternoon,” Spezial said. “And I started Saturday.”
The first meeting, Spezial lasted just two innings, giving up six runs – two earned – on five hits and three walks.
Friday, it was Spezial slicing through the Senators’ lineup. He gave up three runs – two earned – on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.
“The nice thing about Niko is he’s wild enough to be effective,” Wease said. “You’ll get two balls and no strikes and the next thing you know its 2-2. Then you get a fastball right down the middle and you’re not expecting it.”
Spezial said his finger still bothers him but he’s learning to block it out and focus on his mechanics.
“I’ll feel it hurt and I’ll throw a different way. You can see me on the mound stretching my finger out,” he said. “You’ve just got to keep your mind off it. Don’t think about it. Just go out and throw what you’ve got, think ‘What can I do to throw strikes?'”
He did that Friday. As for the close call at third base that helped wake up the offense to support him, Spezial was mum on whether he thought the ump made the right call.
“Mouth shut on that one,” Spezial said with a smile.
Haymarket 100 002 000 – 3 9 0
Harrisonburg 010 032 00x – 6 10 1
Gorski, Peterson (6), Hurval (8) and Coleman; Spezial, Chapman (8) and Austin. W- Spezial (1-0). L- Gorski (1-1). S- Chapman (1).