08/03/2011 – Daily News Record
Bad Inning Dooms Turks, 5-2 Written by Matthew Stoss Daily News Record
Harrisonburg – In the first inning Tuesday, Harrisonburg Turks, starting pitcher Niko Spezial walked four batters and the defense made two errors that led to four runs for the Rockbridge Rapids.
It was one bad inning that killed the Turks’ next eight.
Harrisonburg never could shake the first frame, stranding eight runners, while Rapids starter Clinton Freeman tossed a complete game to give Rockbridge a 5-2 win in Game 1 of the Valley Baseball League semifinals at Veterans Memorial Park.
“I screwed up,” said Spezial, a 6-foot-3, 215 pound left-hander from Wake Forest. “I wasn’t making admustments the way I should have been. I was making some good pitches but the high ones – walking people wasn’t good. I don’t blame it on the hitters. I definitely take the loss on this one hard for us. It was definitely me.”
The Turks, the VBL’s best team during the regular season, now traiil the best-of-three series 1-0 – not that they’re worried. Harrisonburg still leads the summer league in team batting average (.290) and team ERA (3.15).
“It’s baseball,” Turks owner/manager Bob Wease said. “We’ll come back tomorrow night. We’ll win two in a row.”
If not for the first inning, Harrisonburg probably would have to win just today at Rockbridge at 7 p.m. to advance to the VBL final. Dovington beat Winchester 12-4 in Tuesday’s other semifinal.
Spezial walked the first three batters and the fourth reached on an error by shortstop Robert Perucki (Texas San Antonio). Then Spezial made a throwing error and Rockbridge’s Tyler Molinaro doubled to center field. At the end of the inning, the Turks trailed the Rapids (24-23) 4-0 and that was pretty much the game.
“Very uncharacteristic of us,” Harrisonburg center fielder Jay Gonzalez said. “We weren’t gettign calls. (Spezial) was missing high. He didn’t get his timing right.”
Spezial – who fell to 3-1 but still has a 1.91 ERA in 56 2/3 innings – found his timing after the first inning. From the second inning through the sixth, he was perfect, retiring 15 straight batters.
“I just said there’s no way they’re gettign another one,” said Spezial, who went 6 2/3 innings and gave up five runs (three earned) and four hits. He struck out seven and walked four.
Spezial also wasn’t worried about trailing in the series.
“We’re good enough to come back,” he said. “Today, we hit the ball hard a lot of places and they were hit right at people.”
Freeman, the Rapids’ 6-foot, 180 pound lefty from East Tennessee State, went all nine innings, dodging trouble in the first, second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings. The Turks had runners in scoring position in each but managed just two runs. Only one was earned.
Freeman gave up nine hits and struck out four. He walked two.
Harrisonburg scored its first run in the sixth inning on an error by Rockbridge first baseman George Piccirilli and their second run on a base-hit by Gonzalez in the seventh. The auburn freshman poked a single the opposite way into left field to score Casey Goss (James Madison) from third.
The Turks nearly rallied in that inning but Dodson McPherson (Wingate) hit into a 6-4-3 double play with the bases loaded to end the inning. Harrisonburg went 1-2-3 in both the eighth and ninth innings.
Throughout the game, the Turks hit numerous balls – quite hard, too – right at Rockbridge defenders.
“We didn’t execute with runners on,” Gonzalez said, “and the outcome was we lost because of it.”
And because of that one bad inning.
Rockbridge 400 000 100 – 5 5 2 Harrisonburg 000 001 100 – 2 9 2
Freeman and Way; Spezial, Felix (7) and Austin. W-Freeman (2-3). L-Spezial (3-1).