Explosive Offense Leads Turks to 14-8 Win Over Rebels

Written by Daniel Ware
Turks Staff Writer

HARRISONBURG, Va.—Greg Popatak’s first inning grand slam set the tone early for the Harrisonburg Turks in a 14-8 win over the New Market Rebels at Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday night.

Rebels (9-16) starting pitcher Alex Hicks (Memphis) loaded the bases with two walks and a hit batter before Popatak (George Mason) stepped to the plate. In a long at-bat—an umpires conference and numerous foul balls—Popatak crushed the eighth pitch he saw and put it over the left centerfield wall to give the Turks an early 4-0 lead.

Hicks (0-3) lasted just two innings and gave up seven runs on five hits with two walks, a hit batter, and two wild pitches in the loss.

Greg Papatok II 2016It was Popatak’s seventh home run of the season, which is the most in the Valley League. He finished 1-for-3 with five RBIs, bringing his season total to 21.

Popatak wasn’t the only batter tonight who brought the power. Rebels first baseman John Cable (New Orleans) hit three home runs—a solo homer, two-run homer and a three-run homer—bringing his season total to five. His solo home run came in the third inning, which he put over the scoreboard in right field, while his fourth and fifth homers of the season came in the seventh and ninth innings, respectively.

Cable finished 3-for-5 with a game-high six RBIs and three runs scored

Eric Yankey (JMU) got his second start of the season in his ninth appearance and last six innings allowing just three runs on eight hits. The left-hander struggled with his command at times during the game but was effective pitching himself out of trouble.

In the top of the second, the Rebels loaded the bases with one out but Yankey limited the damage to just one run. In the third, Yankey got catcher Daniel Kerwin (UT-Martin) to ground into a double play one batter—emptying the bases—before Cable hit his first homer.

The Rebels had two runners on in the fifth inning with one out, but Yankey was able to strike out Kerwin and fly out Cable to end the inning. Yankey picked up his second with of the season (2-1) and bumped his ERA down from 5.62 to 5.40.

The top of the order was huge for the Turks in tonight’s win as the top three in the order combined to go 6-for-11 with five RBIs, eight runs scored and four walks.

Lead-off hitter Tripp Shelton (UNCG) hit his ninth double of the season in the bottom of the second—advancing Tanner Dofflemyer (JMU) to third—to set the table for No. 2 hitter Bryan Arias (UTSA), who brought Dofflemyer home with a

single to left. No. 3 hitter Jonathan Pryor (Wake Forest) then doubled down the left field line to score Shelton, and Arias scored on a wild pitch two batters later in a three-run, four-hit inning.

Pryor’s 2-for-3 night pushed his batting average over the .400 threshold, up to .403, which is tops in the league. No other player is batting above .390.

Shelton’s RBI double was his 21st RBI of the season, tying teammate Popatak for the team lead. Shelton also leads the Valley League in hits with 33, as well as runs scored, 24. The Turks have the top three run scorers in the league with Popatak and Serchay behind Shelton with 22 and 20, respectively.

There were a few odd plays that happened in tonight’s game as well. In the bottom of the sixth, Bryan Arias scored from third on a wild pitch by reliever Justin Crump (UNCW), who was attempting to intentionally walk Popatak, but overthrew the catcher, Kerwin.

Also, in the top of the ninth, Patrick Wiseman (Georgia Tech), who came on in relief of Connor Clark (Wingate), who left with an injury in the eighth, threw a pitch into the Turks’ dugout on the third base side after the ball slipped out of his hand.

Mason George’s 1-for-3 night extended his streak of games reaching base safely to 22. In fact, George (UTSA) has reached base in every single game he has played in for the Turks this summer (22). In this streak, he has more multi-hit games (8) than he does hitless games (4).

George is batting .367 with 29 hits, seven doubles, 17 RBIs, 11 walks and just seven strikeouts on the season.

Through 25 games, the Turks offense leads the league in runs per game (6.4), triples (7), RBIs (138), batting average (.293), on-base percentage (.385), slugging percentage (.430) and OPS (.815).

The Turks (18-7) extended their division lead over Waynesboro (14-9) to three games with their win tonight as the Generals were off. The Turks return home to face the Staunton Braves on July 8 after road games on July 6 and 7 versus Covington (11-9) and Waynesboro, respectively.