By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The Central Falcons got off to a flying start to begin their 2010 baseball campaign on Wednesday night.
After failing to come through with a bases loaded, no-out situation in the first inning, the Falcons erupted for a trio of three-run innings in a 9-4 victory over Warren County.
"I like starting the season off with bases loaded in each of the first two innings," Falcons coach Donn Foltz said with a smile. "I think we looked at too many pitches in the first inning. We settled down and made adjustments and came through later on."
Wildcats pitcher Cody Hindman found himself in trouble quickly in the first inning. A first-pitch single by Frank Kopa was followed by two walks from Hindman to load the bases. The Warren County starter wasn't rattled however, as he battled back for three consecutive outs to escape the inning unscathed.
With a two-run lead to start the second inning, Hindman again found himself in trouble. This time, however, the ace wasn't as fortunate. James Brennan started the inning by reaching base on an error by Hindman. Hindman then plunked the next batter with a pitch and followed with a walk to load the bases.
Kopa, the Falcons starting pitcher, stepped to the plate hoping to give himself some relief by providing on offense. On the next pitch, Kopa hit a routine ground ball to short. Tyler Post fielded the ball cleanly, but the flip to second was misplayed by teammate Will Hoffmaster.
"We had some positives tonight despite the loss," Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. "Tyler [Post] did a good job of fielding his position. He made the routine plays and our pitchers each had a couple of good innings that we can build on."
The ball flew into right field on the error, allowing two runners to cross home to even the score. Three batters later, Samuel Cross gave his team the lead with a single to left field that scored Kopa.
"It's all about control," Mathews said. "We gave them three free base runners and committed two errors there in the second. We were somewhat fortunate to get out only allowing three runs."
With security from his offense, Kopa settled in on the mound as he struck out seven Wildcats batters and only allowed three base runners after the first inning in five innings of work.
"We have a young pitching staff, but what I see is very promising," Foltz said. "Kopa did a good job tonight; he just had too many pitches in the first inning. But I am very impressed with how he played."
The Falcons added three runs in the fourth inning and came through again in the fifth to put the game out of reach. An RBI single from Adam Marston was followed by a single by Kohly Hawkins and a Kopa walk to load the bases once again. Sean Semones then fisted a double to left to score two runs and set the final margin.
"They did a good job of coming through in the clutch and we didn't really put the ball in play," Mathews said. "We need to hit the ball better. I have high expectations for this team and we have some work to do on the field. We have a veteran team and I think we'll be OK defensively. It was just the mental stuff that bothered me tonight."
"It would be nice to say we are going to come out and put up nine or 10 runs every night," Foltz said. "That's not always going to happen, but we are going to be very aggressive on offense and ride our pitchers this season. I am very pleased with how we played tonight. We just have a few things to tweak and we're going to take it on a game-by-game basis. We have to get prepared now to face another quality organization in Strasburg next week."