7/27/2006 – Daily News Record
Daily News Record Written By Mike Barber Wease Hopes His Team Isn’t Too Eager To Get Home Before Wednesday night’s playoff opener, the Harrisonburg Turks presented reliever Danny Wells with a plaque as the team’s Pitcher of the Year. Maybe they should have handed him the ball. Instead, with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and the Turks holding a 4-3 lead, Harrisonburg stuck with starter Matt Baugh. Baugh gave up a bases-clearing, three-run double to Rebel Ridling and Covington beat Harrisonburg 9-4 in Game 1 of their first-round Valley League playoff series. Now, attitude may play as big a role as talent in the best-of-three series. After two months of baseball in a strange town, the collegians who comprise the Valley League often are eager to get home for a short break before classes resume. "We can come back, if they want to," owner/coach Bob Wease said. "I think some of them do and some of them don’t. It’s a long summer for most of them. Now they realize if they lose tomorrow, they go home Friday. I hope that’s not the case." In front of a sparse, lifeless crowd of about 150 people at Memorial Stadium – many of whom came late or left early – the Turks squandered several scoring opportunities. None was bigger than when David Dennis tapped into a 6-4-3 double play in the first inning. With Covington starter Gabe Seten struggling to find the strike zone, Dennis came up with the bases loaded. But even though Seten had allowed the first four batters to reach – two by walk – and forced in the game’s first run with a hit batsmen, Dennis still swung at a 2-0 pitch that he grounded weakly to short. Wease said that lack of patience at the plate has plagued his team all year long. "Bases loaded, nobody out. Pitcher’s all over the place. What do we do?" Wease asked. "Two balls, no strikes on the batter. What do we do? We hit the next pitch. That’s ridiculous. Hit right into a double play, took us right out of the inning. We could have busted the thing wide open there. We’re not a smart baseball team." Dennis said he swung because he got the pitch he was looking for. He just missed it, he said. "I swung at a pitch that I shouldn’t have, 2-0, after he walked somebody," Dennis said. "But I was expecting him to come back fastball, which he did. But it ran a little bit and got under my bat. The game’s probably a different game if I get under that." Wease said he doesn’t second-guess sticking with Baugh in the seventh. With two on and two out, Baugh did get ahead of the next two batters 0-2, but walked the first before giving up the big double. "It wasn’t Baugh’s fault," Wease said. "Baugh was throwing a great ballgame. He deserved to stay in there." Harrisonburg had a chance to get back in the game in the eighth inning, when it loaded the bases with two outs. But Covington turned to star reliever Akeem Francis, who struck out all four batters he faced to earn his second save of the year. Francis, with his hat cockeyed and a high leg kick that almost – almost – would remind you of Dontrelle Willis, struck out Ryan Rachal on three pitches to end the eighth. He then struck out the side to finish the game and put the Lumberjacks in the driver’s seat for the series. "I did good against them all year, so I’m pretty comfortable against them," said Francis. Harrisonburg will pitch James Madison’s Justin Wood tonight in Covington. He’ll go opposite Nick Utley for Covington. The Turks played Wednesday without team MVP Bobby Spain, who injured his shoulder in the next-to-last game of the season. But Wease said Spain will be in the lineup tonight.