Turks Drop Opener

SHANE METTLEN | Special Correspondent  
PUBLICATION: Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA)

DATE: June 3, 2017
STAUNTON — Henry Kleienbaum stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning of Friday night’s Valley Baseball League opener with the idea of playing hero with a big swing in his mind.

Instead, the James Madison sophomore stayed patient at the plate and drew a walk before scoring the winning run in the Staunton Braves’ 2-1 victory against the Harrisonburg Turks.

Kreienbaum and Dukes teammate Ryan Coale each singled for the Braves and Tennessee sophomore Jay Charleston drove in the winning run with a single to left, spoiling a fantastic start by Turks pitcher Rhett Willis.
“Everybody comes up in the 10th thinking about a walk-off,” Kreienbaum said. “But [Staunton manager George Laase] told me to be patient and look for a good pitch and it paid off to take that approach.”
For a while it looked like the Turks pitching would be enough as Staunton struggled to get anything going at the plate.
Brenton Sanders, who finished with a pair of hits for Harrisonburg, drove in Ty Andrus, a Wingate University outfielder, who led off the game with a triple to the right field corner.
Those two early hits were enough to spoil an otherwise stellar start from Staunton’s Deacon Medders. Medders, a 6-4, 194-pound righthander from Alabama, who pitched six innings without giving up another run while allowing just four hits.
Most years, Sanders wouldn’t have arrived in the Harrisonburg area in time for the Turks‘ Valley League opener. The Georgia Tech sophomore spent his spring with a program typically still in the hunt for a College World Series berth this time of year with the Yellow Jackets having participated in the NCAA Tournament 24 times since 1990.
But a rare losing season for Georgia Tech benefited the Turks right away with the RBI double in the top of the first. But otherwise, Medders kept Harrisonburg off balance and turned it into a pitchers’ duel with Turks right-hander Rhett Willis.
Willis got the opening night start after making nine appearances, mostly in relief, for Division II Florida Tech this spring, and responded with 5 2/3 innings in which he allowed just one hit and one unearned run.
“He didn’t pitch too many innings this spring,” Harrisonburg skipper Bob Wease said. “He was their closer, but they want him to start next year and he’s getting that work here. I thought he did a great job, but a few errors really hurt us.”
A defensive breakdown in the bottom of the sixth saddled Willis with a no-decision after Charleston hit a slow roller that got under the glove of Turks‘ second baseman Bryan Arias. The error allowed the catcher Coale to score from second and tie the game 1.
Jacob Ramos later came on in relief for the Turks, and got out of a jam in the ninth, but took the loss after Charleston came through with the hit to give Staunton the season opening victory.