By Ben Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The Front Royal Cardinals got a head start on their Fourth of July holiday celebration with some offensive fireworks on Friday night.
The Cardinals set a season high for runs and hits in a 15-8 Valley Baseball League victory over host Winchester at Bridgeforth Field. Three of Front Royal's first seven batters of the game hit solo homers to stake the Cardinals to an early lead they never relinquished.
"I was happy to see the guys starting to get some confidence with their swings," said Front Royal manager Joe Scarano, whose Cardinals pounded out 19 hits, including four home runs and seven doubles. "It's good to see them break out a little. It's that time of the year when the hitters start to catch up to the pitchers."
Cardinals right fielder James Roche, one of three Front Royal players with three RBIs on the night, added two home runs to stretch his team-leading total to six.
"We just tried to take an aggressive approach out there," Roche said. "Usually when we score early, we do well and play more with a sense of urgency."
Front Royal leadoff hitter Will Walsh and Roche homered off Royals starter Kyle Clark (0-3) in the first, and Sean Jamieson added one in the second. The Cardinals (13-10) scored at least one run in each of the first five innings and blew the game open with a five-run eighth to take a 12-3 lead.
The early offensive barrage was plenty of support for Cardinals starting pitcher Frank Zier (4-1), who beat the Royals for the second time this season. Zier scattered six hits and allowed two earned runs in five innings of work.
The Cardinals, who committed five errors, didn't make it easy for themselves by allowing four late unearned runs. But following a Winchester five-run eighth inning that trimmed the deficit to 12-8, Front Royal answered right back with three of its own in the ninth.
"We've had trouble defensively all year," Scarano said. "You can win some games with offense during the regular season, but you can't win playoff series' if you don't have pitching and defense. If we're going to make a serious push for a title, that's something we've got to fix."
In addition to Roche, Pete Greskoff went 4-for-6 with three RBIs, Jamieson was 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a homer, and Drew Gadaire drove in a pair of runs.
Raymond Church drove in three runs for the Royals (13-10), including a two-run homer in the fifth. Colby Gratton topped Winchester's 11-hit attack with three hits.