By Dave Norman
Web Cast Announcer
HARRISONBURG–Better late than never was the adage of the night as Harrisonburg scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning and hung on to defeat Charlottesville 2-1. With the win and a Staunton loss, the Turks advance to the Valley Baseball League Playoffs.
Luke Scherzer (Virginia Tech) was dominant from the outset on the mound for the Turks, striking out seven through three innings. Sean McCracken was equally effective for the Tom Sox with a crafty mix of pitches, stranding Turks base runners en route to his best outing of the season.
Charlottesville took a 1-0 lead in the third on a RBI single by Max Bazen.
McCracken tallied 5 scoreless innings scattering 6 hits. Pitching is the strength of the Tom Sox as Evan Justice and Luke Burton each threw a scoreless innings after McCracken departed.
Scherzer was relieved after 6 innings with just three hits, one run, 8 strikeouts and just one walk. Cade Bullinger (Midland College) emerged from the Turks pen for his biggest outing of the season.
The game remained 1-0 until the home half of the eighth. Charlottesville went with Michael Portela on the mound. Austin Embler (UNC Greensboro) drew a leadoff walk. Jack Wilson (Western Kentucky) laced the first pitch he saw down the right field line and into the corner. Embler streaked around from first to tie the game at 1-1.
Brett Whelton (McNeese State) drew another walk putting runners at 1st and 2nd. Elian Merejo struck out swinging and Andrew Llewellyn (Wingate) hit a deep fly ball to right that advanced Wilson to 3rd with two outs. Cameron Irvine (Virginia Tech) then flared a ball into center-field scoring Wilson from 3rd to give the Turks their first lead of the night and send the crowd into a frenzy.
Kyle Johnson (Rider) popped out to end the rally, but the Turks headed to the 9th, with the Tom Sox suddenly on the ropes.
In the 9th, Bullinger took on the heart of the Tom Sox order. Zac Ching was retired on great play by Embler at second base, as he ranged left, slid, collapsed and popped back up to throw out Ching.
Patrick McCall singled on a swinging bunt to give Charlottesville a chance. Kirby McMullen followed with a solid single to left to put runner on 1st and 2nd. Bullinger then induced a sharp ground ball to Embler at 2nd who started a crisp 4-6-3 double play to seal the win.
Cade Bullinger pitched three scoreless innings in relief and gets the victory for the Turks. Brycen Braswell was 3 for 3 for the Turks.
With the Staunton loss to Waynesboro, the Turks are in the playoffs as the #4 Seed in the Southern Division and will travel to #1 Seed Covington today for Game 1 of best-of-three series, Game time is 7:00 at Casey Field in Covington.
Charlottesville is the #2 Seed in the South and will host #3 Waynesboro. The winners of these first Round series will meet for the Southern Division title.