By Robert Edmonds -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- The Front Royal Cardinals found themselves playing catch-up on Tuesday night when they hosted the Covington Lumberjacks in Valley League action.
The Cardinals fell behind early in the first inning, but managed to quickly even the score. Front Royal would find itself trailing two more times as the night moved rapidly, but each time they found a way to draw even.
After scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to force extra innings, the Cardinals found themselves with the opportunity to claim victory in each of the next three innings, but were unable to capitalize. Then with one swing of the bat in the top of the 13th inning, Front Royal knew it had blown it's chance as Covington scored two runs in the inning to pull out the victory, 6-4.
"Our mentality tonight was bend but don't break," Lumberjacks manager Arlan Freeman said. "We let them back in the game, but we knew our pitcher was doing a good job and we needed the win so we stuck with him to finish them off and get the victory."
Leading off the inning against a solid Cardinals pitcher in Chris Pena, Lumberjacks catcher Andrew Longley turned on a pitch and left no doubt as he drove the ball over the outfield wall for a home run to put his team ahead. After squandering their lead three times earlier in the game, the Lumberjacks knew they would benefit from an insurance run and stayed aggressive at the plate.
"We haven't been able to defend very well," Front Royal manager Joe Scarano said. "We should have never had to go this long in the game. Our pitching staff is one of the best in the league and we are playing good enough on offense, but our defense has not been able to defend well enough to win for nine innings."
The next batter, Mike Martinez singled to left and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Martinez scored when Ryan Dineen sent a shot to right-center field to give the Lumberjacks a two-run cushion heading into the bottom of the inning.
"We have had different guys step up for us all year," Freeman said. "I ask these guys who wants to be the hero and they all do no matter if it's at the plate or on the mound."
The Cardinals managed to put two runners on against reliever Patrick Goelz, but once again could not find the answer as Goelz recorded the win in his fifth inning of relief.
The victory was redemption for Goelz after blowing a save opportunity in the bottom of the ninth. Starter Jake Ramsey pitched seven innings only allowing two runs and recorded four strikeouts while not giving up any walks.
"I think we played a great and complete game," Freeman said. "We stayed with it and when Drew [Longley] got the home run that was a huge boost for us. Then needing to add another run, Dineen came through for us."
Pinch-hitter Stephen Rogers delivered the tying run against Goelz with an RBI single to polish off the ninth inning resurgence off a feisty and resilient Cardinals team. Unfortunately for Front Royal, the game of playing from behind proved to be too much as they fell in defeat.
"We let them hang around and when they came up with a dangerous hitter, he turned and pulled one out of the park," Scarano said. "We knew it was just a matter of time."