By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Entering the evening, the Front Royal Cardinals were determined to put together a win.
To do that, they would have to knock off the third place Winchester Royals and the Cardinals knew that would not be an easy task.
Not even a brief rain delay could throw the Cardinals off their goal, as they came out aggressively and never let up. Led by starter Ricky Ott, Front Royal shut down the Royals and rolled to a 4-1 victory, and ended a seven game losing streak in the process.
"The guys did a very good job today," Cardinals manager Joe Scarano said. "They came to the park with something on their mind and they were ready to win tonight."
A strong approach at the plate by the Cardinals batters seemed to throw Winchester pitcher John Jones off his game early. The Cardinals only managed one base hit in the first two innings, but were making good contact at the plate.
With Front Royal driving the ball well, Jones knew he needed to adjust but had difficulty finding the plate as he allowed five walks in just three innings on the mound. After the Cardinals struck first with a run in the second, Front Royal broke the game open in the third against the left-handed pitcher.
"We knew their starter had a good fastball, but we also knew that was his best pitch," Scarano said. "We wanted to try to get to him early and not let him get in his comfort zone where he could start to rely on his second and third pitches, or he was going to be difficult to hit against."
A pair of singles by James Roche and Matt Holland quickly began the run in the bottom of the inning. Pete Greskoff then hit a routine ground ball to third base, but Royals second baseman Raymond Church misplayed the throw, which rolled into the outfield, allowed Roche to score and put runners on the corners.
Jones then walked the next two batters, forcing Holland to score and suddenly the Cardinals were ahead and still threatening. A sacrifice fly by A.J. Alvey added another run, but Front Royal wasn't able to do any more damage as Jones worked out of the jam before leaving the game.
Ott grabbed his first victory of the season, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing one unearned run.
"Ricky [Ott] was very aggressive right from the first inning tonight," Scarano said. "He really set the tone and that's what a team needs, is to have a leader that can come out and set the tone for everyone and he did that tonight."
The lone score for Winchester came in the third inning when the Royals' Cory Spangenberg walked and then stole second to get into scoring position. The shortstop later scored on a Cardinals error, but that was all the Royals could manage on the night.
"It was nice to get this win and I really hope that this starts to swing things for us," Scarano said. "We know we can compete if we come to play every night. The guys did a good job and coach [Jake] Weghorst did a great job of leading the team tonight in the late innings. He will be the coach again tomorrow night and I'm sure he will have our guys ready to play."
Scarano left the game in the sixth inning after he was ejected for arguing a call by the umpire that overturned a double play that the Cardinals recorded to initially end the top of the sixth before the inning was reset and the two teams resumed play.