Reigning Champs Want New Rings
Posted: July 25, 2013
By MATT JONES
Daily News Record
HARRISONBURG – Harrisonburg Turks’ assistant coaches Luke Yost and Ryan Chapman enjoy showing off their 2012 Valley Baseball League Championship rings to this year’s team.
The gesture may seem small, but it’s motivating many players on the 2013 to win their own. “Some of the guys on the team are really jealous of them and they really want them,” starting pitcher Connor Kaden said. “That’s a good thing for our team to shoot for is one of those.”
If the Turks (31-12), the Valley League’s best team during the regular season, play like they have all season, owner and manager Bob Wease might have to dig into his pockets again to finance another set of rings.
Led by the league’s best lineup (.280 batting average) and best pitching staff (2.58 ERA), Wease’s club will face the Waynesboro Generals, managed by Mike Bocock, in the first round of the VBL playoffs beginning Sunday. The winner of that best-of-three series will play the winner of New Market and Staunton in another best-of-three series for the right to represent the South Division in the title series.
The Turks are 6-0 against Waynesboro this season, outscoring the Generals, 44-14.
But with the short series playoff format, top teams can be prone to upsets.
“I don’t like that of course,” Wease said. “Now we’re going in, and we’re going to have to beat them a couple more times. To beat a team six or eight times in one season, it’s pretty tough. It scares me to play them to be honest with you.”
Harrisonburg is led by a group of Division I players, including Wake Forest’s Connor Kaden (5-0 record, 2.55 ERA), Auburn’s Justin Camp (6-1, 1.37), Georgia Tech’s Thomas Smith (.339 batting average, nine doubles) and Duke’s Andy Perez (.294, 28 stolen bases).
While Wease is still aiming for back-to-back VBL titles, he believes this team has already cemented itself as a success.
“In the playoffs anything can happen,” Wease said. “To me, what distinguishes the best team in the Valley League is the fact that you play 44 games and you finish No. 1. That tells me who the best team is.”
The Turks started the season by going 16-6 in May/June. They credit camaraderie for the fast start.
“I’d say this is one of the best teams as far as team chemistry,” Perez said, noting that the team routinely hangs out during their down time away from the field. “We don’t have any selfish guys. Nobody thinks they’re better than anybody.”
Perez, who won two state titles in baseball in high school, believes the Turks, if focused, have what it takes to make it back-to-back VBL titles for Harrisonburg.
“We set out to win the pennant, and we accomplished that,” Perez said. “I think it’d be pretty cool to win it two years in a row. I think if we play like we can, I think [we’re the best team]. Sometimes we beat ourselves. We’re going to have to play real well in the playoffs if we want to make a run at this.”
The Turks have lost three key pitchers, two to injury – Chris Pike (back), Adam Boghosian (arm) and Sam Kmiec (innings limit). Wease has replaced them with several midseason pickups.
After last year’s success and a strong regular season showing this year, Wease’s team is the hunted.
“There’s always a target on Harrisonburg’s back,” Wease said. “Everybody likes to beat Harrisonburg. It’s been like this for 20-25 years. To me, that tells you that you’re a good ballclub. Everybody wants to beat No. 1; I think we’re No. 1.”
If the Turks go back-to-back, maybe they will even put a ring on it