It came down to the wire in the top of the ninth with the Generals down three with two runners on with two outs as Joseph Sullivan III stepped into the batter’s box.
Sullivan hit a bomb to right field off pitcher Sean Culkin (James Madison) for an RBI double to cut the deficit to two and bring Caleb Cali to the plate with the potential win the game in a walk-off.
On an 0-2 pitch, Cali popped one up to right field and outfielder Mikey Rosario made the catch for the third to keep Harrisonburg’s VBL championship hopes intact.
“I thought Matt [Kleinfelter] pitched very well today,” first baseman Mitch Farris said. “We knew we were low on pitching and he did enough. … We were just battling at-bat to at-bat, pitch to pitch.”
Kleinfelter, another JMU pitcher, started on the mound for the Turks and threw for seven innings, tying his season-high in strikeouts with six and throwing over 100 pitches. He said he didn’t realize he was over the 100 pitch mark because he was just “doing his thing.”
“I think this win really means a lot because this was a turnaround for the series,” Kleinfelter said. “We put the bat on the ball, we got hits and we scored runs. The defense was good and everything came together tonight.”
TJ Clarkson got the Generals on the board in the top of the first, hitting a single to drive in Joseph Sullivan III. The Turks matched them with a run of their own in the bottom of the fourth when Sam Schner got Mikey Rosario across home plate on a groundout.
The bottom of the sixth was the difference maker. With the bases loaded and one out, Farris reached first on an error by the second baseman and allowed Carlos Perez and Matthew Mamatas to score. On the next at-bat, T.J. Williams scored on a passed ball — the third run of the inning.
Sullivan III notched an RBI of his own in the top of the fifth and Garrett Howe stole home to put the Generals up by two. The Turks responded in the bottom of the fifth with two runs of their own on four hits as Rosario and Seaver King racked up RBIs. The Generals loaded the bases with one away in the top of the eighth but the Turks only allowed one run off a sacrifice fly.
Harrisonburg looked to add insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth as Farris slammed one to center field, driving in Williams on an RBI double. Despite getting within two, the Turks held the Generals down in the top of the ninth with three routine defensive outs to win the game. Like they did in game two, Farris said the team is going to leave it all on the field in game three.
“[We] just got to go into tomorrow and treat it like one game,” Farris said. “It [the win] definitely gets the momentum on our side and gets us rolling a little bit.”
Game 3 was set to take place Thursday at 7 p.m. in Waynesboro with the winner advancing to the semifinals.
After a hard-fought win, Kleinfelter said the win boosts the team’s confidence heading into Game 3 after a difficult last few games.
“It just made us think we’re not necessarily out of the whole thing,” Kleinfelter said. “We still have a lot more baseball to play.”
Waynesboro 100 020 011 — 5 6 1
Harrisonburg 000 123 01x — 7 12 1
Kleinfelter, Culkin (8) and Perez. Batcher, Fortenberry (6), Pleasants (8) and Jones, Bogart (6). W — Kleinfelter (1-0). L — Fortenberry (0-1).