By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- Maybe it's too far a stretch to say the New Market Rebels were one strike away from securing their first three-game win streak of the season.
It was only the seventh inning, after all, when Rebels reliever Andrew Kirk converted a bases-loaded, no-out situation into one with two outs.
Kirk also had two strikes against Waynesboro shortstop and No. 2 hitter Jon Clinard.
But because Clinard chopped a two-out single just short of New Market second baseman Jason Coker's glove, there's no telling what might have happened had Kirk struck out his third batter of the inning.
Clinard's single scored Cody Hudson from third to begin a four-run spree in Waynesboro's 10-4 win at Rebel Park on Thursday night.
And maybe it was too much to ask for New Market, in a sport in which a team can play at two polar extremes in two given nights, to string together three stellar performances in a row.
"You're not always gonna get the top-to-bottom pitching performances that you need back-to-back-to-back, but you're hoping you can put those things together," New Market manager Corey Paluga said of the eight runs the Rebels gave up in the final three innings. "When you're scoring a lot of runs offensively, pitching also has to step up sometimes and shut the door on the visiting team."
Despite scoring seven runs in each of their last two games, scoring another seven runs might have been too tall a task for a New Market team that prefers to grind games out, rather than slug them out.
The statistics have certainly shown that. The Rebels are 5-6 in their last 11 games despite producing very little at the plate.
New Market came into Thursday night with the Valley League's lowest batting average (.230) and the fewest runs scored (79), yet found strength in a solid core of starting pitchers and a quality defense.
Not to mention New Market as of late has been an efficient offense. The Rebels may not put many runners on base, but when they do, they often score. In a recent game against Winchester, New Market scored seven runs on seven hits, then later scored seven runs on eight hits against Harrisonburg.
But no amount of efficiency could turn New Market's four hits into enough runs to outscore Waynesboro on Thursday.
"Not to put emphasis on any one thing, only having four hits, it's gonna be tough to win a ball game when you only have four hits offensively," Paluga said. "We took advantage at times with the walks and getting the hits after the walks to score the runs, but we still need to swing the bats better."
New Market pitcher Jake Guengerich put in a quality six innings of work, giving up only two runs on three hits and striking out eight. Giving up a double to the first batter he faced, Guengerich fanned the next four batters, and didn't see more than three batters until the fifth inning.
No Rebel produced more than a hit, though Kevin Brown scored two runs.