Turks Clinch 2011 VBL Pennant

07/25/2011 – Turks Tidbits

Turks Secure 1st Seed in 2011 VBL Playoffs with 7-6 Win Over River Bandits

Written by Nathaniel Stoltz James Madison University Intern Harrisonburg- The Turks clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs in their final regular season home game with a win over the Central Division rival Woodstock River Bandits. The victory concludes the Turks’ season-long eight-game homestand. The Turks are now on a three-game winning streak.

After a quick first inning, the Turks got themselves on the scoreboard first in the bottom of the second inning with a two-out rally against Woodstock starter Stefan Del Pino. With two outs and the bases empty, catcher Blake Austin (Auburn) lined a single to center field. Second baseman Brian Ritz (Indiana), making his first start at the position this season, followed with a four-pitch walk, and third baseman J.J. Loker (USC Aiken) lofted a fly ball to deep left-center for a two run double. Center fielder Jay Gonzalez (Auburn) then grounded a single up the middle to score Loker, and just like that, it was 3-0 Harrisonburg.

The River Bandits scratched across a run in the top of the fourth on a bloop single, a passed ball, an infield hit, and a sacrifice fly off of Turks starter Niko Spezial (Wake Forest), cutting the Harrisonburg lead to 3-1.

The Turks didn’t wait long to strike back against Del Pino. After first baseman Chris Marconcini (Duke) reached on a throwing error to open the bottom of the fourth, Austin hit a Del Pino offspeed pitch into the Woodstock bullpen for his third home run of the season, putting Harrisonburg up 5-1.

Woodstock rallied in the top of the sixth, however, with Scott Burkett hitting an RBI single and Derek Vigoa lining a three-run double to tie the ballgame at five.

Spezial finished with a line of seven innings, nine hits, five runs (none earned), three walks, and five strikeouts. His opponent, Del Pino, went five innings, allowing five hits, five runs (four earned), four walks, and recording two strikeouts. He left after walking Marconcini to open the bottom of the sixth.

Facing Woodstock reliever Jeremy Ortiz in the bottom of the seventh, Gonzalez worked a walk and advanced to second when a bunt from shortstop R.J. Perucki (UTSA) turned into an infield single. A fielder’s choice off the bat of right fielder Sam Dove (Georgia Tech) sent Gonzalez to third, and Dove and Gonzalez pulled off a double steal, putting Harrisonburg ahead 6-5.

That wasn’t the only steal of home, however. In the top of the eighth, Woodstock’s Derek Vigoa scampered home from third while Turks reliever Dominic Sgroi (La Salle) attempted a pickoff to first, re-tying the game at six. Woodstock tried a double-steal of second and home in the top of the ninth as well, but Austin made a great tag at the plate to end the inning.

In the bottom of the ninth, Ritz led off with a single through the right side, Loker bunted him to second, and Gonzalez ripped a grounder through the left side. The throw to the plate was too far up the third-base line to get Ritz, who crossed the plate with the dramatic winning run.

The Turks improved to 31-11 on the year, and went 6-2 on the homestand. Woodstock, still competing for a wild card playoff spot, fell to 19-23 with the defeat.

Ryan Chapman (Rio Grande) picked up the win in relief, moving to 3-1 on the year. Ortiz fell to 1-1.

Gonzalez led the Turks offense, as he was on base all five times he came up. Austin also had a multi-hit game, including the home run.

The Turks will return home for the first game of the playoffs. The time and opponent in that game are yet to be determined.