Turks : “We’ll Pick It Up”

Harrisonburg Loses 9-2 To Staunton But Gets Pitchiing Set For VBL Playoffs
Turks Will Host First-Round Playoff Game Friday

Posted: July 25, 2012

HARRISONBURG – Even though there was a chance for Harrisonburg to win the Valley League’s pennant race in the South Division entering Tuesday, Turks’ manager Bob Wease knew winning two games and counting on Rockbridge to beat Waynesboro twice was wishful thinking.

“This game didn’t mean much,” Wease said after Tuesday night’s 9-2 loss against Staunton at Veterans Memorial Park, which will likely be Harrisonburg’s final regular season game.
Without playing, Waynesboro clinched the South crown as the Turks came out flat against the Braves following a two-hour delay and postponement due to lightning storms earlier that afternoon against Covington. But the loss did buy Harrisonburg two days off – Wease didn’t expect the Covington game to be made up – to rest its weary pitching staff ahead of the postseason.Harrisonburg (27-16) will host a first-round playoff game on Friday as the No. 2 seed.

“I’d say we were getting kind of thin towards the end there,” said Turks’ pitcher Dillon Ortman, who will start Friday, “but these two games will be much-needed rest for our pitching staff and we’ll be ready Friday.”

Against Staunton on Tuesday night, third baseman Jake Roberts made his first start despite previously pitching only two innings this summer. The hard-throwing right-hander didn’t make it out of the third inning, giving up three runs on four hits with a strikeout and two walks.

Joe Charest and Alex Cruz finished the game in relief for Harrisonburg, which hasn’t followed its recipe for success recently, going 6-5 in its last 11 games. Typically, the Turks have been at their strongest with starters pitching deep into games or simply keeping it close before turning it over to the bullpen. Any lead has proved to be enough for the Turks, who lead the league in saves (18) and team ERA (4.08) to go with a 24-0 record when leading after six innings.

“As far as the playoffs go, we’re fine,” Wease said. “… Everything will be right back intact for us.”

Of course, the offense didn’t particularly help against Staunton. Led by starter Derek Justice on the mound, the Braves (20-24) outhit Harrisonburg 13-7 and led 5-0 before the Turks could get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth.

“He may be one of the best pitchers in the league, that I’ve seen,” Wease said of Justice, who went seven innings and allowed two runs (one unearned) on five hits with five strikeouts to earn the win.

Justice left the game with a 7-2 lead, giving up a solo home run to third baseman David Perkins.

Turks pitching coach John Radosevich believes the couple days of rest will allow his staff – the strength of the team all summer – to regroup. He expects to have all of Harrisonburg’s top starters ready for a playoff push, including Ortman, Trey Cochran-Gill and Mike Kraft.

“The boys have been throwing a lot of innings and we’re kind of short on pitching anyways, because we don’t have the numbers,” Radosevich said. “So it’s big, having the two days off.”

Looking forward, the Turks have been particularly impressed with Ortman, Shawn O’Neill and Jordan Priddle on the mound. Those three just happened to be the top inning-eaters over Harrisonburg’s last 11 games.

Over that span, Ortman has pitched 15 2/3 innings in two starts – both wins – and Priddle has had four relief appearances, going 14 2/3 innings with a win and a save.

“It was especially big for Dillon Ortman. I think he’s a better pitcher than he thinks he is,” Radosevich said. “I think he can go longer than he thinks he can go. … And I’m very pleased and proud of Jordan Priddle. He didn’t pitch all spring at Florida State. He was red-shirted. He came up here and he’s thrown some quality innings for us.”

O’Neill leads the team with a 1.52 ERA in 47 1/3 innings pitched this summer.

“I’m going to count on him heavily for the playoffs,” Radosevich said of O’Neill.

And Wease plans to continue counting on his pitching as a whole.

“We’ll perk up,” Wease said. “We’ll pick it up.”

Staunton             102 002 202 –  9 13 2 Harrisonburg     000 001 100 –  2   7 1
Justice, Schreiber (8) and San Juan; Roberts, Charest (3), Cruz (7) and Mason. W – Justice (4-2). L – Roberts (0-1). HR – Staunton: Fernandez (3); Harrisonburg: Perkins (1).