Originally created 05/24/00

Tankersley pitches Jackets to win



There's only so much a young pitcher wants to hear from his pitching coach about the progress he's made, about how all the hard work between starts eventually will pay off.

Dennis Tankersley has been anxious to see results, and the GreenJackets right-hander got what he long has been waiting for Tuesday night.

With total command of all three of his pitches, Tankersley tossed six masterful innings against the Greensboro Bats in a 2-1 Jackets victory at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

"Everything's falling into place now," said Tankersley, who allowed just two hits and did not walk a batter while striking out nine Bats to improve his record to 2-3. "I have a lot more confidence in my pitches now, which is huge. At the beginning of the year, I was trying to hit every spot perfect. Now, it's like a `Here it comes, hit it' kind of attitude."

The Jackets (24-22) certainly have been playing with attitude the past three weeks, and as was the case for Tankersley, the results have been promising. The victory was Augusta's sixth straight and 14th win in its past 18 games.

While the Jackets have proven they can win high-scoring games during their recent surge, they also showed Tuesday they can win in a pitching duel.

Chris Warren's RBI-double in the second inning and an infield RBI-single by Carlos Rodriguez in the sixth was all the offense they needed.

The bullpen also did its job. After Mauricio Lara gave up a solo home run to Jeff Nettles in the seventh inning, he settled into a groove and shut down the Bats.

Lara did not allow another baserunner and struck out five batters in two innings, and closer B.J. Leach nailed it down with a 1-2-3 ninth for his South Atlantic League-leading 13th save.

But the night belonged to Tankersley, a 38th-round draft pick of the Red Sox in 1998 who struggled early in the season, going 0-3 with a 6.55 ERA in his first five starts this season.

"He's actually learning how to pitch now and learning the importance of being able to command and locate his fastball," Jackets pitching coach Bob Kipper said.

"To see those improvements in his bullpen work, and to watch the way he throws in warmups before games, you can see that he's at the point where he's close to putting it all together. Tonight was a night when he put it all together."

The key Tuesday for the 21-year-old Tankersley was command and some extra jump on his fastball to go with an effective curveball and change-up that kept Bats hitters off balance for most of the night.

Tankersley, whose fastball generally averages 89 mph to 91 mph, hit 92 mph consistently Tuesday with a top velocity of 94 mph.

"If you can throw two pitches for strikes, you're going to have success, and I could throw all three for strikes tonight," Tankersley said. "If they don't have an idea what's coming, its' a lot harder to hit, obviously."

NOTES:

Center fielder Lew Ford went 0-for-4, ending his hitting streak at 17 games. ... First baseman Luis Garcia missed his second straight game with stiffness in his lower back, and is day-to-day.

Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.

JACKETS TONIGHT

Vs.: Greensboro Bats (Yankees)

Where: Lake Olmstead Stadium

When: 7:05 p.m.

Probable starters: Greensboro -- RHP Zach Day (5-3, 2.01 ERA); Augusta -- RHP Rick Riccobono (4-3, 4.98)

Tickets: $7, $6, $5.

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