Getting “Back To Normal”

JMU’s Yankey Logging Innings With Turks

Written By Phil D’Abbraccio
Daily News-Record

HARRISONBURG – Pitching for the Harrisonburg turks this summer, left-hander Eric Yankey is making up for lost time.

“I’m just trying to work on all my pitches. I kind of missed out this season from not being fully back,” Yankey said Thursday.

Next Friday marks one year for the day that Yankey, a Turner Ashby High School graduate and James Madison pitcher, was severely injured in a single-car car crash. In addition to hurting his neck, he broke his left femur and three fingers.

After recovering in time to play for Madison this spring as a sophomore, Yankey logged 10 innings over 13 relief appearances. As a freshman a year earlier, he pitched 37 2/3 innings for the Dukes.

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder has already exceeded his workload from the college season with the Turks (6-4).

Yankey’s 15 innings are most among all Turks, and his 12 strikeouts lead the team. He’s 0-1 with a 4.80 earned-run average and went four innings in relief Wednesday to pick up his first save of the season.

“Eric’s doing a great job for us. His curveball’s working well and his fastball, he’s spotting that up good,” Turks manager Bob Wease said Thursday evening at Veterans Memorial Park, shortly after his team’s game with Covington was postponed due to rain. “I think he’s bouncing back completely.”

“He’s my kind of player, my kind of guy,” Wease said.

In his only start last Friday, the soupaw went six innings with five strikeouts and four runs allowed in a 9-3 loss to Strasburg.

“I was a little shaky in the beginning, but once I got through a few innings, I felt back to normal,” Yankey said. “I wasn’t used to throwing that many innings, but it felt good to get back out there for a little while.”

Yankey said he’s regained the velocity he had before his injury by weight-lifing, long-tossing three times a week, and running. He was throwing in the low-to-mid 80’s during the JMU season, he estimated.

He often runs at the field before games now, Yankey said, and also puts in another mile or two on treadmills at the gym.

Yankey, the Conference 29 Pitcher of the Year as a TA senior in 2014, said he’s been developing a change-up this summer to add to his repertoire, which already includes a fastball, curveball and slider.

It’s a “pretty cool” time to be a former Turner Ashby baseball player too, Yankey added.

Recent TA grad Brenan Hanifee was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles last week and said this week he intends to sign with them.

“It’s just something cool to talk about, how I was at TA while Brenan was there,” said Yankey, who is good friends with Hanifee’s older brother, Evan. “Ever since he was little I knew he would be a draft pick.”

Another local product who has pitched effectively this summer for the Turks is Tucker McCoy, a Spotswood graduate and rising junior left-hander for JMU. In two appearances totalling 12 innings, McCoy is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA, 11 strikeouts and just one walk.

Yankey said, however, that McCoy – one of his good friends – is done pitching for the Turks this summer and is focusing on a throwing program to build up his arm strength.

Wease said that McCoy was “lights out” for the Turks in his last appearance Saturday. The lefty held Covington scoreless and allowed just two hits over six innings. McCoy struck out seven in six innings and allowed three runs against Staunton on June 5.

“He had all his stuff working, so hopefully he carries that over,” Yankey said. “Maybe the throwing program will even help him more. This summer, he was looking outstanding; I just wish he could’ve stuck around a little longer.”