Turks Rising After Five Straight Victories
Written By: Brian Reese
Valley Baseball League Intern
After starting the year with a 1-3 record and three straight home losses, the ship has definitely been righted for the Harrisonburg Turks. The Turks have won five straight games (four on the road), and eight of their last nine, to sit tied for second-place in the Valley League at 12-6. In the past two weeks, Harrisonburg’s only losses have come to league-leading Front Royal, red-hot New Market, and a 9-9 Charles Town team. Besides a 10-run loss to New Market on June 12, the Turks haven’t lost a game by more than four runs this season, and are 6-2 in one-run games.
So far, the Turks have split games with the first-place Front Royal Cardinals and second-place Waynesboro Generals. They also took two games in a doubleheader against a strong 10-7 Covington team that has beaten Waynesboro (12-6) twice this season.
“We should have won the first four games…right now we should be 16-1,” said head coach Bob Wease before Monday night’s game. Wease says that errors in crucial situations have been the problem for the Turks. As a team, the Turks have committed 39 this season.
However, Wease stressed just how “impressive” the infield is defensively – especially third baseman Brandon Gold (Georgia Tech). “Brandon has made plays that are just unbelievable…[Sunday] he backhanded a rocket down the third-base line with the bases loaded, and came up and threw the man out.” That was the difference in the game,” Wease said
Perhaps the biggest win for the Turks this season came June 5 in Front Royal against the league-leading Cardinals (13-3). Harrisonburg limited the Cardinals to just one run and three hits in nine innings, while the offense exploded for nine hits and ten runs. The Turks offense had three runs in the top of the fifth inning – and then came back to score six more in the sixth – proving just how dangerous the lineup can be. Harrisonburg has only been shutout once (10-0 at New Market), and besides the outlier, the Turks haven’t scored fewer than two runs in their other 16 games.
The Turks offense has been spearheaded by Georgia State infielder Matt Rose and Wingate University’s Thomas Spitz, who are hitting .405 and .352 respectively. Rose ranks in the top five of the league in almost every major offensive category – second in hits (30), third in batting average (.405), and second in RBI (16) – while Spitz ranks third in hits (25), second in doubles (6), and second in runs scored (18).
Spitz is a speedy leadoff hitter (he has eight steals and has come around to score 18 times), while Rose primarily serves as the designated hitter in the clean-up spot. Rose and Spitz both have two home runs on the season. Rose had a solo go-ahead homer in the eleventh against Woodstock on June 7, while Spitz had a crucial solo shot in a 7-6 win on June 15 at Waynesboro.
“[Rose] has been the guy that’s been setting the table for us. Spitz gets on and Rose knocks him in,” Wease said.
The Turks score a lot of runs. 102 runs in 18 games (5.66 per game) with a +15 run differential. However the real secret to their success may be in the pitching staff.
Right-handers Tyler Brown (Wingate) and Logan Onda (Texas- San Antonio) have anchored the bullpen, which holds six of the 11 wins by Turks pitchers. Brown and Onda are both top ten in the league in ERA – Brown leads the league with a 0.60 ERA through 15 innings while Onda is tenth with a 1.32 ERA through 13.2. Right-hander Brett Morgan (Wingate) has also been very effective out of the bullpen after allowing five runs against the Express on May 31. Since then he’s pitched 10 innings with one earned run and 11 strikeouts – and picked up the win over Aldie Sunday night.
The Turks also have arguably one of the best starting pitchers in the Valley League this season in left-hander Garrett Ford. The junior from Georgia State has a 3-1 record with a 2.25 ERA in four starts, and his only loss came at the beginning of the season at Staunton. Since giving up five earned in four innings against the Braves on June 1, Ford has given up just two earned in 24 innings pitched.
Right-hander Kevin Lewallyn has also been key as a starter for the Turks with a 1-0 record in 4 starts, including the win against Front Royal. The sophomore from Duke has a 2.41 ERA in 22.1 innings with 16 strikeouts.
“Our pitching has been absolutely fantastic,” Wease said.
Harrisonburg will look to make it six in a row when they face the Charles Town Cannons at home on Tuesday night.