Ready To Play Ball

Wease Hoping For Good Start To Harrisonburg’s Season

By Greg Madia
Daily News Record

HARRISONBURG – The first two weeks on his schedule are circled, Bob Wease said.

Weease’s Harrisonburg Turks open the Valley Baseball League season next Friday and then after a day off, play 13 games in the next 14 days to begin the summer.

By the time June 17 hits, the Turks will be one-third of the way through their 42-game schedule.

“It’s tough,” the veteran skipper said Wednesday. “We’re not going to have some of our players yet and it’s going to determine how we do this summer. So hopefully we get off to a good start.”

Harrisonburg, which finished 27-15 in the 2016 regular season before falling to Covington in thepostseason, has either won the division pennant or league five of the last six years. Last summer was the first time since 2010 that the Turks didn’t win at least a share of the pennant. In 2012, the team won the league.

This year’s group is versatile, Wease said. Most of his position players can play multiple spots in the field, including five that can suit up to play behind the plate. He has eight right-handed hitters and eight left-handed hitters to go with seven left-handed pitchers and nine right-handers.

“We’ve got two left-handed hittig first basemen,” Wease said. “But two of our catchers, Tony Bean and Andrew Llwellyn, are right-handed and can play first base, so when we face a left-hander, I can catch one of them and play the other one at first base.”

The roster is nearly finalized and some of Wease’s Turks are still finishing their college seasons.

He said about eight players will likely arrive late to Harrisonburg because they’ll be playing in NCAA regional games with Baylor, Florida State, Miami or Wake Forest, or in the NAIA World Series with Oklahoma City University.

Harrisonburg returns six players from its 2016 team including Texas-San Antonio shortstop Bryan Arias, who is hitting .336 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs.

Arias will hit in the middle of the lineup behind projected outfielder and leadoff batter Ty Andrus. Coming off his junior season at Wingate, where he hit .366 with 18 stolen bases, Andrus plays with speed that Wease said he’s excited to see.

“He will run a lot with me” Wease said. “I like to run a lot.”

Wease said he tries to keep most of the players in the same roles they play in college so that they’re as comfortable as they possibly can be in the summer.

“I want them to have fun,” Wease said. “I want them to come up here and say at the end “I had a great summer” and that their coach would send their players up here again.”

Wease and company open at Staunton on June 2 and open at home again Waynesboro on June 4. On June 9, the Turks host Charlottesville, which Wease said is much improved from its 15-27 finish last year.

“To me, and I’ve looked at all the rosters, but the one that intimidates me a little bit is Charlottesville,” Wease said. “They’ve got U. Va’s catcher and couple of U. Va’s pitchers. On paper, they really look good.

“Those guys in Charlottesville are doing a great job. They’ve been in the league two years and I know they haven’t made the playoffs, but it’s coming.”

Valley Baseball League commissioner Don Lemish echoed Wease’s thoughts.

“You have to assume the champions from the year before would be strong, so I’ll say Strasburg will be strong,” Lemish said. “Then Waynesboro will be strong and the Turks should be strong, but I’ll tell you what, looking at Charlottesville’s roster, wow. They’re strong.”

Lemish said the only rule change to the league for this summer is that it has adapted Major League Baseball’s new intentional walk rule — putting the runner on first with a signal from the dugout.