Gens Beat Burg, 5-4
By Nick Sunderland
WAYNESBORO – The Harrisonburg Turks are one loss away from making a third consecutive first-round exit from the Valley Baseball League playoffs. In the opinion of Waynesboro center fielder Jeremy Taylor, such a fate might be just fine with the Turks.
Taylor – an East Tennessee State rising senior – plated Thursday night’s tie breaking run on an eighth-inning drag bunt up the first base line as the third-seeded Generals beat No. 2 seed Harrisonburg 5-4 at Kate Collins Field to force a winner-take-all match up in the teams’ best-of-three series.
“I mean, we’re pretty motivated. We feel like Harrisonburg’s trying to give (the series) to us, so we’re gong to take it,” said Taylor, who – when asked by a reporter to expound on his comments – added, “I mean, their play speaks for itself.”
Harrisonburg will hot Game 3 at Veterans Memorial Park today at 7:30 pm with James Madison left-hander Tucker McCoy starting on the mound.
As for Thursday’s defeat, to Taylor’s point, longtime Turks manager Bob Wease lamented what he felt was a lack of effort and composure from his team throughout the contest.
On a night when outfielders from both teams lost routine fly balls in the lights – Taylor said the sky above Waynesboro’s field can look something like “Trix yogurt” a swirl occasionally – Wease said some Turks chose not to finish plays.
“You’ve got to run everything down, you’ve got to hustle; that was the difference in the ball game. We didn’t hustle.” Wease said. “…You’ve got to come out here and you’ve got to be ready to play. It’s just that simple.”
In spite of those frustrations, Harrisonburg still managed to rally from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game in the seventh thanks in part to a two-run double by Wingate University center fielder Shane Billings.
Generals starting pitcher Brett Sasse retired the first 11 batters he faced – and the right-hander kept Harrisonburg off the scoreboard over his first six innings of work.
But when the Nebraska-Omaha junior ran into some trouble – the Turks, scoring their first run of the game on Baylor left fielder Kameron Esthay’s sacrifice fly, went on to load the bases with one out in the seventh – Billings finally broke through for the Turks against Jackson State reliever Jamal Wilson.
His double – and Baylor second baseman Steven McLean’s ensuing RBI groundout – pulled Harrisonburg even at 4 – all, but Taylor’s scoring bunt in the very next frame put Waynesboro back up for good.
“Some people are pretty worn out,” Billings said. “They just got done playing a season at school and just came straight here to play all summer. But a lot of us are used to it. It’s a grind. We all get through it.”
Billings – clearly unimpressed with the way Waynesboro took the lead – described Taylor’s RBI as a “sneak little drag bunt.”
With one out and runners at first and third base, Taylor and Generals assistant Matt Williams strategized during a Harrisonburg pitching change.
Taylor said Williams gave him the option of running either a safety squeeze or going for a straight up hit. As it went, the speedy Taylor bunted the first pitch he saw for an out – but the play easily scored East Tennessee State first baseman Kevin Phillips, anyway.
From there, Norfolk State right-hander Alex Mauricio and Stetson right-hander Frankie Romano came on to pitch two combined scoreless frames to wrap up a Waynesboro win.
“I think we’ll get it done, I really do,” Wease said in reference to tonight’s decisive meeting.” “…We’l come out and give 100 percent effort. And if we don’t win, we don’t win. But all I want is 100 percent effort.”
Harrisonburg 000 000 400 – 4 10 3
Waynesboro 102 010 10x – 5 7 0
Morton, Shelton (5), Herbelin (7), and Garcia, Sasse, Wilson (7), Mauricio (8), Romano (9) and Hale. W – Wilson. L – Shelton. Sv – Romano