The senior right-hander got himself in hot water in each of the first two innings of the Wildcats’ 6-2 win against Cleburne County in the last game of the Bradey Munroe Memorial tournament Friday night.
But each time he coolly pitched himself out the disadvantageous circumstances on his way to an impressive complete game victory.
“I’ve been playing for years and just had to settle in,” Turner said. “It’s kind of a routine thing. I struggle early. If I can get out of the first or second, it’s downhill from there.”
Turner allowed the Tigers’ first two batters in the top of the first to get on base on a hard-hit single up the middle by Adam Johnson before Tanner Howle reached on an error. With runners on second and third and one out, he escaped calamity by retiring Alex Lee on a grounder and fanning Josh Davis for the third out.
The Tigers had runners on second and third with one out again in the second but Turner turned up the velocity and whizzed third-strike pitches by Benton Cooley and Johnson to get out of the inning unscathed.
Aside from a two-run homer he gave up to Cleburne County’s Alex Lee in the fifth that gave the Tigers their only offense, Turner was the picture of pitching proficiency on his way to a nine-strikeout performance.
“He’s thrown so many big innings that we just kind of trust him,” White Plains coach Chad Hudson said. “We made an error or two early. He was having a hard time throwing a curveball strike early in the game and he really had to kind of fight through that. The last half of the game he was lights out.”
The win, the Wildcats’ sixth in a row, boosts their record to 12-3 on the season as they prepare to face Piedmont in Class 3A, Area 9 play.
“We’ve ironed some things out and got some things going,” Turner said. “We’re ready to play.”
Turner also paced the Wildcats at the plate, going 3-for-3 to help his team secure a victory in the tournament named after Munroe, a former Wildcat baseball player who died from soft tissue sarcoma, a form of cancer in 2008.
“We just love Bradey and his family and keeping his memory alive,” Hudson said. “So, it was really nice to be able to win the tournament.”
White Plains went up 4-0 on a two-run homer to centerfield by junior Joel Ray. Zach Cunningham and Turner added RBI singles in the third, scoring Konnor Amis and Austin Cowan in the third.
Hudson came to the mound to talk things over with Turner after he gave up the home run to Lee and walked Matthew Norton.
Hudson decided to stick with Turner and it wound up being the right decision. Turner struck out Davis for the third out of the inning then sat down six straight batters in the sixth and seventh to close out the game.
“We talked about it,” Hudson said. “We kind of get what we deserved there on that home run because Alex Lee’s a great hitter. We got two outs with nobody on and walked a guy to have to face Alex with people on base. We fell behind him. That was really the only mistake J.T. made all night.”
The loss snapped the Tigers’ (8-3) eight-game winning streak as they head into Class 4A, Area 10 schedule, beginning with a road trip to Anniston Tuesday.
“We saw weaknesses during that time that we needed to work on,” Cleburne County coach Vaughn Lee. “We just hadn’t had time to get better at it and one of those things is runners in scoring position. We leave way too many. I’m talking about a lot. I’ve never had a team that had this many people left in scoring position. Things haven’t line up for us yet."
Brayden Walker was the only player other than Lee with an extra-base hit for Cleburne County with a double in the top of the second. Johnson, Howle and Blake Turner all added in singles in defeat.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575.