Kraft Slings A Win

By MARK SELIG
Daily News Record                     


HARRISONBURG — Harrisonburg Turks pitcher Mike Kraft and his slingshot are inseparable. Whether he’s shooting sunflower seeds into the driveway, competing at target practice against fellow Turks hurlers, or pelting a skunk with a rock, Kraft is very proud of his precision with the tool.
“He brings it everywhere,” Turks shortstop and Texas-San Antonio teammate RJ Perucki said of Kraft and his slingshot. “Every road trip we have, he takes it.”
The one place Kraft doesn’t bring his slingshot is the pitching mound (that would probably be illegal under some sort of baseball bylaw). So on the hill, Kraft uses his left arm as a weapon, and it made for quite an accurate and formidable weapon Thursday evening against Rockbridge.
In his best outing of the season, the 5-foot-10, 160- pound Kraft went 6 1/3 innings, striking out eight Rapids batters and allowing just one run in the Turks’ 3-1 seven-inning victory in Game 1 of a Valley Baseball League doubleheader.
“My changeup was finally working for the first time this summer,” Kraft said.
The rising sophomore was perfect through 3 1/3 innings and faced the minimum 15 batters through five. He allowed a pair of singles in the sixth inning, but got out of the inning with his fourth backwards “K” of the day.
Kraft’s first walk began the seventh, and Rockbridge loaded the bases with none out. After he induced a pop-out to Perucki at shortstop, he hit a batter to end the shutout. But Alex Cruz – the reigning VBL Player of the Week – entered the game and secured Kraft’s win by persuading a 4-6-3 double-play.
“I was hoping for exactly what happened,” Kraft said. “A ground ball up the middle for an easy double-play.”
Kraft, who played for Front Royal last season, said he’s enjoying this summer, despite entering Thursday with a 5.96 ERA and .336 batting average against. Living in Harrisonburg, the San Antonio native goes to the gym, fishes and eats Qdoba pretty much every day.
The Tex-Mex grub is in his blood. Kraft’s father owns a burrito restaurant in San Antonio called Habanero’s Grill, where the younger Kraft worked for 15 years and said he might return to after he earns a business degree at UTSA. Trying to pack on the pounds to his small frame, Kraft said chicken, steak and rice make regular appearances in his diet.
On Thursday, he threw a steady diet of strikes – a focal point for him this summer. He walked 46 batters in 80 2/3 innings as a freshman at UTSA (where he went 8-6 with a 4.91 ERA) and said he wants to eliminate handing out free passes.
In 32 innings with the Turks, he’s walked just 13 batters.
“Mike was throwing a lot of strikes,” pitching coach John Radosevich said. “Was starting off the batters with good pitches, good strikes. … Maybe he got a little tired at the end.”
With Rockbridge pitcher Jeremy Jansen also throwing well – he also walked just one batter – the seven-inning game lasted 1 hour, 29 minutes.
That leaves Kraft plenty of time to toy with his slingshot.
Rockbridge           000 000 1 – 1 5 2 Harrisonburg        003 000 x – 3 7 1
Jansen and Andrus; Kraft, Cruz (7) and Murray. W- Kraft (3-1). L- Jansen (0-3). Sv- Cruz (1).

Speak Your Mind