By Jay Jenkins / Scrimmageplaycva.com contributor
Albemarle coach Jimmy Bibb eventually pushed the right button.
Bibb continued to bark at starting pitcher Austin Turner as the frames evaporated, longing to get the right-handed pitcher to lift his game to the next level.
While few would have noticed that Turner was missing his marks based on the zeroes filling the line score, the fashion in which the senior retired the final nine outs of the contest sent an emphatic statement and lifted the Patriots to a 1-0 victory at home over rival Western Albemarle.
Making his third start of the season, Turner pitched a complete game and allowed a pair of hits as he fanned four batters.
“I was on him a little bit tonight,” Bibb said of Turner. “I didn’t think he was focused and maybe there were some personal things going on with the rivalry right there [with Western] and he wasn’t ready early, but I think he got mad and maybe that was the best thing that ever happened.
“He went out there then and he was a bulldog. Early on he was missing
on his spots and I was chewing on him pretty good.”
Turner admitted that he got off to a slow start in a game played in chilly conditions that are outside the norm thus far this season.
“It was the hype of playing a rival and I just couldn’t hit my spots too well for a little bit, but in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings I picked it up a little bit,” Turner said. “It was a good win. We wanted it.”
Having played four district games already, Albemarle improved to 6-1 overall and will take a 3-1 district record into a game at home with Stafford on Thursday at 6 p.m. Western (4-3) does not open Jefferson District play until after spring break and will travel to Spotswood on Thursday at 5:30 and Covenant on Saturday at 11 a.m.
In the second inning on Tuesday, Turner was spotted the game’s lone run as an unlikely hero emerged offensively.
With two outs and runners on the corners, Albemarle senior Kyle Ripley slapped a 2-0 fastball from Western Albemarle pitcher Parker Morris into the grass in right-center field to score Albemarle second baseman Zach Evans, who finished with two hits.
A starting pitcher for the Patriots, Ripley was given a rare start at designated hitter in the game and was slotted at the bottom spot in the batting order.
“We had a hunch. We had been looking at him and looking at him and we said we should give him a shot,” Bibb said of Ripley, who is scheduled to start on the mound later this week against district foe Mountain View. “He is a senior and dadgum if he didn’t come through for us. He hadn’t hit in a district game yet for us. He had a couple of scrimmages where he swung the bat well, but he pitches for us.
“I don’t want him thinking about anything else when he’s out there pitching, but we figured why not throw him in there in his last game against Western.”
Turner had just worked out of trouble earlier in the second, ironically, after walking Western right fielder Daniel Kuzjak and plunking catcher Jacob Rich to load the bases. Morris, the lead-off hitter for Western, was unable to help his own cause, however, as Turner induced a fly-ball to right that senior Jacob
Borenstein charged in for and corralled as he collided with the fence in foul territory.
“He is going to make all of those catches,” Bibb said. “Jacob is just really quick. He could play anywhere. He can really run and if we needed him to he could play second and short. He can do it all.”
As Morris and Turner zipped through batters, there was little drama in the middle innings and neither team offered a serious threat to score until the Warriors made things interesting in the seventh.
Western second baseman Eli Sumpter opened the seventh by blasting a 3-1 pitch for a single past Turner’s glove and off the bag at second, providing the Warriors their second hit of the game.
Tanner Knight attempted to push Sumpter into scoring position with a bunt on the first pitch he was offered. The bunt started a foot in foul territory and took an odd turn towards the chalk on the line as Albemarle first baseman Robert Thomas marched in, collected the ball and tagged Knight. After a discussion about the questionable call, the two-man umpiring crew confirmed Hudgins’ pleas that the ball was foul when picked up. Knight couldn’t manage to get another bunt in play on a 2-1 pitch and then struck out looking on a full-count offering that appeared to pass the letters on his uniform.
The Patriots could have ended the game a batter later on a grounder to senior shortstop Lee Carneal, but after getting the lead runner at second the relay throw sailed wide to the right of the bag at first.
Turner appeared to end the game a batter later as he forced another grounder, but the hard-hit ball was misplayed.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Bibb elected to stick with his starting pitcher.
“I had my closer [Timmy Aker] in center. I had him in my pocket and I thought [Turner] was throwing good, so I wasn’t going to use him unless I had to,” Bibb said. “Austin’s pitch count was down and he had some innings where he threw very few pitches so I said we would stay with them.”
Turner got yet another grounder and Carneal fired a strike across the diamond to first to end the threat and finish the fast-moving game that took just over 90 minutes to finish.
“The seventh lasted a little longer than I wanted it to,” Turner said with a smile, “but our defense dug in and we got them.”
Western lost for the third time in a five-game stretch, but the coaching staff found it easy to find positives from the road contest.
“That was a good high school baseball game,” Hudgins said. “Like I told the team, I didn’t see anything that I have to complain about. I would have liked to have seen us swing the bats a little bit better. I thought we were a little late and swung at a lot of stuff that was just up a little bit from where we want it, but it was a great game.”
Morris dropped to 1-2 on the season with the loss, garnering a complete game that impressed both skippers in the process. The sophomore fanned four batters.
“Parker threw great. He pitched backwards on us,” Bibb said. “He threw curveball, curveball and then threw the fastball instead of throwing the other way.
“He is a good little pitcher. They are so young. They are going to be so good, scary good really soon.”