Wednesday, July 20, 2022
Daily News Record
Jaylon Lee stood in the on-deck circle and watched the ball fly off his new teammate’s bat and into the darkness at Veterans Memorial Park in mid-June as the Harrisonburg Turks were looking for a spark.
The team was .500 through its first 12 games and Michael Rosario had just arrived in town after making an NCAA tournament run with Miami.
It didn’t take long for the Hurricane to cause some damage, homering in just his second game of the summer campaign with the Turks.
“That was pretty to watch and as soon as that happened, he just started clicking and rolling,” Lee said. “He’s hot.”
Since Rosario arrived in Harrisonburg, he’s been torching opposing pitchers. The Newberry, Fla., native leads the Valley Baseball League with a .383 average at the plate with eight doubles, two triples, a trio of home runs, and 12 RBIs.
The outfielder from the Sunshine State is a reason for the Turks’ recent success, winning 13 of their last 15 games, as Rosario was named the league’s hitter of the week.
Now, the Turks have clinched a spot in the league’s playoffs and can lock up a top three seed from the South Division with one more win or a Covington Lumberjacks loss.
During the team’s hot stretch, Rosario has hit .420 — including a .520 tear last week — with five doubles and eight RBIs.
I’ve been playing relaxed,” Rosario said. “I haven’t been under pressure. I’m not putting too much pressure on myself and I’m showing well on the field.”
His approach at the plate is to hunt fastballs, but Rosario hasn’t seen many heaters this summer. He’s used to it now after playing with the Turks a year ago, where it was a similar situation.
Rosario said he’s being “pitched backward” or seeing a lot of changeups and sliders. Though he’s looking for his pitch to hit, he’s not afraid to swing at the off-speed stuff if he has to.
“I try not to think,” Rosario said. “I try to be as loose as possible and just react, honestly.”
With Rosario’s bat in the lineup, it made it easier for others in front of him in the order, including Wingate’s Seaver King.”
King was moved up in the order to bat third, a spot he hasn’t hit in since high school, but he said with Rosario behind him it gives him confidence if he reaches base.
“I get on base, I know he’s going to hit something hard and I’m going to score,” King said on Monday afternoon, sitting inside the Turks home dugout. “He said he loves hitting behind me.”
Rosario, who was walking by, quickly chimed in. “He gets on,” Rosario said with a laugh.
With runners to drive in on base, Rosario’s success earned him a spot on the league’s All-Star roster this summer after he only played in 17 games with the Turks.
“For somebody to show up that late and make the All-Star game, that’s very impressive,” Lee said. “He knows what needs to be done to get the job done for his team. He’s a huge contributor to this team.”
It didn’t take long for Lee to notice the impact Rosario’s bat would have in the Turks’ lineup after watching his first home run leave the park in June. Lee said he’s watched Rosario’s mechanics, trying to take pieces here and there from his approach. With a red-hot Rosario at the plate, the rest of the Turks’ bats have come alive, too.
During the team’s recent tear, the Turks have scored seven or more runs in eight contests with most of the lineup doing damage.
“All the bats are hitting. Hitting is contagious,” Lee said. “Once everyone got hot, it started flowing. We really don’t expect anybody to get out when they go up to the plate. We’re just having fun.”