Turks Rally Falls Short, Jacks Win 5-3
Written by Jackson Campbell
COVINGTON, VA – It was an abrupt end to the season for the Valley League’s third best regular season team, as the Lumberjacks swept Harrisonburg in the first round. Covington got exactly what they needed from their starting pitchers, Mike Hanchar and Orlando Cannon, and slowed down the powerful Turks offense.
On the second night of the first round playoff series, things were looking up early for the Turks. Tripp Shelton notched his third leadoff homerun of the season to put Harrisonburg up 1-0. The first inning runs on the road has been a recipe for success for the Turks throughout the summer, but on this night, they would not add another run until the ninth inning when it was too late.
Brandon Caples got the start for the Turks and he threw seven innings, struck out seven, walked one, gave up four earned runs and 10 hits. In his two starts for Harrisonburg in the regular season, he had a 1.58 ERA and had a nearly 5-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Caples may have given up a lot of hits to Covington, but he mostly worked his way out of a lot of jams and gave his offense plenty of chances to provide support.
The best opportunity for Harrisonburg to put some runs on the board came in the third inning, when Tripp Shelton walked, followed by a Jonathan Pryor double and a another walk to Greg Popatak. With the bases loaded, Bryan Arias struck out to end the inning, ending an opportunity to extend the 1-0 lead. With that momentum in hand, the Jacks promptly tied the game up in the bottom half of the inning one a single from shortstop Jose Carrera that scored Miguel Reyes. Reyes’ double to lead off the inning started a string of six consecutive lead off hits for Covington.
The fourth inning was the one that would put the Jacks ahead for good. Four errors for Harrisonburg on the night would prove to be very costly, and one of them came on a hit from centerfielder Orley Arellano, which ended up scoring Brandon Vicens to make it 3-1. Another throwing error in the seventh would plate Bruce Martin, putting the game out of reach.
New Turk Devin Harriman came in relief in the eighth and did a nice job preventing any further damage, but Jacks reliever Nick Payesko was lights out from the sixth inning onwards. In the ninth, with the season on the line and a four run deficit staring at them from the scoreboard at Casey Field, Luke Shiflett got the rally started with a leadoff walk. Bryan Arias followed with a double, and so did Tanner Dofflemeyer to deep left center, which made it 5-3 Covington with no outs. The next two batters would pop out and ground out, stranding Dofflemyer at second. The final out of the season came down to Turks Week 7 Player of the Week Ryne Sigmon, and he struck out.
Covington will move on to face Waynesboro in the South Division Finals. It was a season with a lot of positives for the Turks, but it came with its difficulties as well.
The roster seemed to always be in flux, and both the offense and defense could be streaky at times. While that all made for a season that was successful yet unpredictable, there were so many positives to be taken away.
Trevor Craport (Turk of the Year), Tripp Shelton (MVP), Corey Childress (Pitcher of the Year), Greg Popatak (Home Run Slugger), and Jonathan Pryor (Batting Champ) all won individual team awards and had outstanding summers. Corey Childress led the Valley League in wins with six and came in second in strikeouts with 52. Greg Popatak was second in the league with nine home runs, and won the Valley League Home Run Derby. Jonathan Pryor led the league for most of the season in batting average until he fell to third near the end. Shelton was the All-Star game MVP for the South, and was invaluable on both sides of the ball all year after making huge strides in his second year with the team.
As down as the team could have gotten about all the roster changes, credit has to be given for the guys ending the regular season with 27 wins. It was a season full of great moments. Coach and team owner Bob Wease picked up his 400th win of his Turks career against the Lumberjacks on June 11th, and was inducted into the first class of the Valley League Hall of Fame at the All-Star Game. The development of many players was also evident, especially with Shelton and Dofflemyer.
While the season did not end with a championship, it still has to be said that the Turks were one of the strongest teams all summer. To all the Turks that are now returning to their respective colleges, the team and Harrisonburg community wishes you all much success in your career. Congratulations and thank you for a great summer!