Turks On Verge Of Sweep

Ortman Strong Again In Game 2 Win

Posted: August 3, 2012
By PAUL MONTANA
Daily News Record


 HARRISONBURG – Harrisonburg Turks manager Bob Wease stood tense in the third-base coach’s box, hands on his knees, using every precious second of Ryan Brown’s sprint from first base to third to weigh his options.
The safe play was to hold Brown at third – after all, Ryan Lee’s line-drive single to left would often only advance a runner 90 feet. Even Brown, who had taken off from first on the pitch, didn’t think he’d make it to 270 – but with two outs in the sixth inning, Wease was willing to let him try.
Brown scored easily – the play was so improbable, the Royals didn’t see it coming.
It was the most dramatic play of the Turks’ 6-2 win over Winchester on Thursday night, and just as suddenly – and perhaps just as improbably – Harrisonburg has a 2-0 series lead in the Valley Baseball League championships over a Royals team that dominated the regular season.
The Turks will go for a three-game sweep of the best-of-five series today at 7 p.m. in Winchester.
“It’s just a different atmosphere in the playoffs for these guys,” Turks manager Bob Wease said of his team. “They want to win. I’m really proud of them.”
Winchester (35-15), which won the South Division pennant, came into the title series on an eight-game winning streak, including a two-game sweep of Woodstock in the best-of-three North Division championship series by a combined 17 runs. In Harrisonburg’s divisional championship series, the Turks (33-17) squeaked by Waynesboro thanks in part to a thunderstorm ending the pivotal third game prematurely.
But so far in the league championship series, it’s been all Turks.
A big reason for the Turks’ playoff surge has been Dillon Ortman, who pitched his fourth straight gem. The rising junior right-hander at Auburn gave up two solo homers, but was otherwise his usual dominant self, allowing five hits over eight innings. He’s allowed just three runs in his last 32 2/3 innings – four outs away from four complete games in his last four starts.
After both the Royals’ Justin Fox and Garrett Autrey homered on first-pitch fastballs, Ortman met with catcher Eric Mason and the Turks’ coaching staff and committed to mixing up pitches better early in the count. It worked.
“Mason said, ‘Let’s just mix it up, throw some changeups, early,’” Ortman said. “That seemed to keep ’em off-balance the rest of the game.”
Winchester, though, has also helped the Turks in this series with some uncharacteristic issues. In Game 2, it was erratic pitching.
The Royals, who allowed the second-fewest walks in the league in the regular season, walked six Turks, hit three others, and allowed a run on one of several wild pitches. Harrisonburg led off five of the first six innings with a free base, and four of them scored.
“Too many free passes tonight,” Winchester manager Steve Sabins said of his four pitchers Thursday, none of whom lasted more than 3 2/3 innings. “Harrisonburg took advantage and had some big two-out knocks.”
The final walk came to Brown in the sixth, and it led to the most exciting play of the night. As he sped from first to third on Lee’s single to left, Wease waited to see where the left fielder, Autrey, would throw the ball in. He threw to second base – clearly expecting Brown not to try for home – and Wease, reading the play, sent him.
“I knew the way the ball was hit to left-center that [Brown] was going to be rounding third, and I knew [the left fielder] was going to throw it into second,” Wease said. “I was hoping he’d do what he did – he just sort of tossed it, lollygagged it – and when he did, that’s when I sent him.”
Alex Cruz will start on the mound tonight for the Turks. Sabins said he hadn’t decided who would start for the Royals, who have used nine of their 12 pitchers in the first two games.
The Royals do have one stat on their side – they have yet to lose three games in a row all season.
Winchester                011 000 000 – 2 6 1 Harrisonburg            120 101 10x – 6 8 1
Jones, Lidyard (4), Bankemper (6), Neely (8) and Filauro; Ortman, Pike (9) and Mason. W – Ortman (7-2). L – Jones (2-1). HRs – Winchester, Fox (3), Autrey (7).

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