By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- An impressive pitching performance by Ben Paullus from Memphis University shut down the Front Royal Cardinals on Tuesday night in Valley League action.
The Woodstock starter pitched 6 2/3 innings of no-hit ball and recorded nine strikeouts as the River Bandits rolled to a 5-1 victory.
"Ben had a great performance tonight," Woodstock manager Donn Foltz said. "This was his first time out and he left it all out there. You always hope for this kind of performance and it was nice for things to go the way they did."
Woodstock jumped ahead early in the first inning against the Cardinals with three consecutive singles off starter Dan Smith. After leadoff hitter Derek Vigoa and Foster Dunigan reached base to start the game, Ryan Garcia hit a monster shot that just fell short of a home run as it hit the net in left field, resulting in a long RBI single.
"The runs early on made it a lot easier pitching," Paullus said. "When you're ahead pitching, you can get a little more comfortable. I just tried to throw good pitches and I was able to hit my locations and the defense did a really good job and helped me get out of a couple jams."
Vigoa again found himself in the mix in the second inning when he came to the plate with two runners on. Vigoa hit a liner to third which was fielded cleanly, but the throw from third baseman Pete Greskoff sailed over teammate Greg Van Sickler's head, allowing Vigoa to reach base and scoring both runners to extend the lead to 3-0.
"We didn't defend very well and that makes it hard to win," Cardinals manager Joe Scarano said. "You have to make plays on defense and we have got to be able to score first. When we get behind, we are playing the game backwards."
With his team giving him the lead, Paullus settled in on the mound and moved quickly through the Cardinals' lineup. The rising junior struck out the side in the second and third innings with six consecutive strikeouts. A walk in the fourth broke up the perfect game, but Front Royal struggled to find any rhythm at the plate.
"It's disappointing to play the way we did at the plate," Scarano said. "We put a lot of work into our offense. We have to be more aggressive at the plate and not sit back so much, especially early on. We can always back off, but we have to find that aggressiveness."
Finally in the seventh inning, Stephen Rogers ended the bid for a no-hitter with a single to left-center field. Rogers was then thrown out attempting to steal second to end the inning.
"I wanted to make a statement tonight," Paullus said. "I think I was able to do that, but the defense did really well and helped me out a lot. All the guys are getting along and working well together and I am happy with how things are going so far."
With Paullus leaving after the inning, the Cardinals attempted a comeback against the River Bandits' relievers by bringing the tying run at the plate in their final at bat in the ninth. With only one out and the bases jammed, Front Royal could not manage to finish the last-ditch attempt as J.D. Ingalls took the mound for Woodstock to close the game and secure the victory.
"We have only been together about a week or so, but the guys are doing a good job of getting behind each other," Foltz said. "We have a good group of young guys and any time you can win a couple in a row in the Valley League, it's good. But this is a long, long season."