Bloop Dooms Turks

06/15/2011 – Daily News Record

Written by Mark Selig Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – Winchester designated hitter Nathan Minnich smacked the ball hard all night Wednesday against the Harrisonburg Turks. His softly-hit single off Tyler McFarland in the 12th inning did the most damage, giving the Royals a 5-4 win.

Minnich went 4-for-5 with a home run, three RBIs, two runs and a walk. He gave Winchester the 5-4 lead it would hold with a bases-loaded blooper that neither Turks center fielder Jay Gonzalez nor retreating second baseman Sam Dove could catch before it plopped down on the Eagle Field turf.

“You got to take it,” said Minnich, a 6-foot-3, 253-pound lefty from Shepherd. “No matter how hard you hit it, it’s a hit. Still looks like a single in the scorebook.”

If it weren’t for his solid swings throughout the game, the go-ahead hit may not have fallen in front of Gonzalez, who played Minnich deep.

“It was more my fault,” Gonzalez said after the game. “I should have called for the ball. I was a little too deep in the outfield because I also didn’t want to give up the one-out double to the dude who had previously hit the home run, but I take full responsibility. That’s my fault. I should have called for the ball running in and probably could have prevented the run.”

The night was full of should-haves and could-haves for the Turks (8-3), who had numerous chances to remain undefeated at home but sabotaged many of them with mistakes.

After scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on a two-out error by Winchester first baseman Alex Lakatos, Harrisonburg led 4-3 and had its bullpen set up to close the game.

But Minnich boomed a solo shot off of Turks left-handed reliever Dominic Sgroi in the top of the eighth inning.

Harrisonburg loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but cleanup hitter Mac Williamson – an RBI machine in his first six games – bounced into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play. The Turks put two on with one out again in the 10th but could not convert.

“We had 50 ways to win this ballgame tonight,” said Harrisonburg manager Bob Wease before listing a half-dozen plays and situations that went wrong to prevent the Turks from winning. “We were just snake-bitten tonight. It was crazy. Crazy. … It was just a weird night. Weird. It really was.”

Turks starter Aaron Luchterhand (Redlands Community College) went six innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits. Closer Pat Chirstensen gave the Turks every chance to win by throwing 3 1/3 innings of scoreless ball from the end of the eighth through the 11th. He struck out five and allowed just one hit.

“Christensen is the main deal,” Wease said. “He really is.”

Turks left fielder Dodson McPherson (Wingate) mashed his league-best fifth home run to center field in the fifth inning to tie the game at 2-2 after the Royals scored a pair in the top of the first.

Winchester (7-3) took back the lead in the top of the sixth when Brig Tyson knocked in Minnich with a sacrifice fly to right field.

Wease, who used four pitchers total, said he’s concerned about his staff’s availability for tonight’s game at home against Staunton.

“It’s one loss; that’s all it is. But we’ll come back tomorrow night,” he said. “But the big thing is, we depleted our pitching. We only have like 10 pitchers and we went through a bunch of them tonight. I don’t know what we’re going to do tomorrow night.

Winchester 200 001 010 001 – 5 11 2

Harrisonburg 000 022 000 000 – 4 12 2

Palese, Robin (6), Gotelli (8), Pettit (9), Rassi (9), Backstrom (11) and Neeb; Luchterhand, Sgroi (7), Christensen (8), McFarland (12) and Austin. WP- Backstrom (1-0). LP- McFarland (0-1). HRs- W- Minnich; H- McPherson