Little Power = Small Changes

Little Power = Small Changes

By Matt Jones
Daily News Record

Harrisonburg – Turks manager Bob Wease might not have one of his typical lineups, but his team is finding success in small ways.

Through 16 games, Harrisonburg sits atop the Valley League’s southern division – thanks to a six-game winning streak – and is leading or in the top five in several offensive categories, with one big exception.

Home runs.

“In the past, we’ve had guys like Mac Williamson, Chris Marconcini, David “Moose” Dennis, Clint Robinson, all those guys hit 10 or 12 home runs apiece,” Wease said Sunday night during a rain delay against Woodstock in a game that was eventually suspended because of a storm.  “We’ve played 16 ballgames and hit four home runs.  That’s not very good.”

The Turks lack of power has forced the veteran manager to find different ways to win.  The solution?  Get players on base, bunt, or steal them to second and go from there.

“It looks like we run a lot and steak a lot of bases,” said left fielder Eric Kalbfleisch.  “We just try and get the extra bag when we can, more of a contact hitting team.”

Wease’s style this summer might have been the result of a power shortage, but it has produced early-season results.  Harrisonburg ranks third in the 12-team Valley League in hits (155), second in doubles (30), fourth in RBIs (68), first in batting average (.277) and first in stolen bases (38).

The stolen bases are no surprise to Wease.

“I knew that (Thomas) Spitz could run. I knew that (John) Welborn could run, Andy Perez – I knew all those guys could run,” Wease said.  “I’ve had no surprises – I knew what they were before they came.”

Wease, who skippered the Turks to the Valley League championship in 2012, is without one key player he expected to have this summer. Trae Santos, a left-handed slugger from Troy, was drafted in the 17th round by the San Diego Padres.  His 18 home runs as a junior would have been a welcome addition for Harrisonburg.

The Turks (11-5) actually aren’t worse off than most of the VBL in home runs.  Eight teams have four or fewer.  But the South Division’s second-place team, Staunton, has 10, and third-place New Market has six (both teams are right on the Turks’ tail, at 11-7).  The top two teams in the North?  Strasburg has nine and Woodstock seven.

With little power in his lineup, Wease has looked to players like Perez, Kalbfleisch and Texas-San Antonio’s R.J. Perucki to lead the team in different ways.

“You have to change the way you manage the ballclub as to what the ballplayers can do,” Wease said.  “This year, that’s what we have.  We have a lot of gys that can run and a lot of guys that can steal and guys that put the ball in play.  So what you do is play the game the way the players can play it.  If you have guys that can hit it out of the ballpark, you let them swing for the fences.”

Kalbfleisch, a rising junior from North Carolina-Greensboro, leads the Turks in batting (.357).  The No. 3 hitter is a big part of the Turk’s recent winning ways.

“We’re all seeing the ball pretty well,” Kalbfleisch said.  “Scoring runs when we need it, coming up in situations that we need to hit the ball, we hit it.”

Perez, the team’s second baseman, is batting .338, good for second on the Turks.  A rising junior at Duke, Perez moved around the infield in 2013 while hitting a team-best .316 for the Blue Devils.  After spending the summer of 2012 with the Wilson Tabs of the Coastal Plains League, Perez hopes to improve one particular aspect of his offensive game.

“I’m mainly just trying to not give away at-bats,” Perez said.  “For me, I’m trying to be a little more patient and a little more selective at the plate.”

So far, all the little parts are meshing well for Harrisonburg.  While it might not be a classic slugging Turks club, Wease has found a winning formula.

“I love my offense, I really do,” he said.  “We get somebody on, we bunt, we steak – we’re a small ball club this year.”