Harrisonburg Pushes Past New Market, Tightens Grip on First-Place Seed
W: Justin Camp (6-1)
L: Corey Rhodes (5-2)
S: Adam Cherry (5)
After stranding numerous runners on base and failing to score several times, Harrisonburg broke through with a 2-run fifth inning and scored the winning run just one frame later in the sixth to beat New Market at home, 3-2, for the final time in this 2013 regular season.
According to the Turks (27-12) schedule, Saturday night’s game was just another regular season showdown between two teams that live only 10 miles apart. Ask anyone in attendance though, and the atmosphere felt decidedly like that of the playoffs. Desperate tension seeped from the field when Harrisonburg left three men stranded on base in the bottom of the third inning, trailing 1-0 in a game everyone this side of the Mason-Dixon line knew was billed as a pitching duel.
New Market (25-13) entered the game as Rebels but left as jewel thieves, trying to outplay Harrisonburg’s own game of small ball. The visitors stole seven bases, many of them early on, in an attempt to generate extra offense. That stratagem was working to their advantage early; after right fielder Landon Prentiss singled through the left side in the top of the second inning, he stole second just before DH Ryan Messina smacked another base hit that scored Prentiss. New Market 1, Harrisonburg 0.
Harrisonburg was getting men on base, but couldn’t capitalize before the end of each inning. Left fielder Eric Kalbfleisch hit a double deep into the left center alley in the bottom of the second, and shortstop RJ Perucki joined him shortly afterward after taking four balls. But nothing came of it.
The Turks loaded the bases one inning later after right fielder Jace Whitley was knicked in the leg by a pitch, DH Thomas Smith singled, and first baseman Mike Warren walked. But New Market Corey Rhodes looked prepared to always find his way out of a jam, and the Turks came away with nothing for their trouble.
Rhodes began to let up though, after a hot start to his game. Three times we walked batters with runners already on the bags; twice, he walked a batter to load the bases, including deep in the fifth inning, when Smith walked just before Kalbfleisch smacked his second hit of the game into the outfield to tie the game at 1-1. The Turks would lead 2-1 just seconds later, when Perucki, with the bases still loaded, smacked a hard infield chopper that wasn’t quite playable, and everyone advanced.
The Turks scored their final, eventual game-winning run in the sixth, when reliever Josh Falbo plunked Warren in yet another bases loaded scenario, and center fielder Thomas Spitz sauntered right down the third base line to home plate.
New Market did tighten it up in the top of the eighth, when catcher Kevin Stypolkowski hit an RBI single to left field with a runner on third. New Market couldn’t score again though, and when head coach Bob Wease inserted closer Adam Cherry in the ninth inning, the Rebels weren’t able to get anything off him.
Kalbfleisch finished 2 of 4 with an RBI. Second baseman Andy Perez finished 2 of 5 with a run scored.
Harrisonburg starter Justin Camp, who took his only loss of the season last weekend in New Market, went 6 2/3 and struck out 3. He gave up six hits and one run. Camp is one of only three VBL pitchers to reach six wins on the season, the others being the Rebels’ Justin Cooper and Covington’s Zac Westcott.
Harrisonburg now holds a 2-game lead over New Market with five games to play in the regular season. The Turks own a 4-2 advantage over the Rebels in the regular season.