By Ben Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Offensive production hasn't exactly been New Market's calling card this summer. But for one night, at least, the Rebels' bats came alive.
New Market roughed up Winchester pitching for a season-high 18 hits, including four home runs, on its way to a 14-4 Valley Baseball League victory over the Royals Thursday night at Bridgeforth Field.
The Rebels (12-17), who have won seven of their last 10, did most of their damage early on, using a pair of five-run innings in the first four frames to take a double-digit lead.
Rebels leading hitter Jordan Owen led New Market's offensive barrage with his first two homers of the summer and six RBIs. His grand slam just out of the reach of Winchester center fielder Kevin Brashears capped New Market's five-run second. The University of Tennessee-Martin sophomore added a two-run shot in the fourth and finished 5-for-6. Prior to Thursday, just seven of Owen's 33 hits were for extra bases.
Despite hitting 18 homers in college this spring, Owen said he never got frustrated over the lack of power this summer.
"You don't force power," Owen said. "You don't swing any harder. You can't try to hit a home run. You just have to stay loose and trust your swing."
New Market manager Corey Paluga was at a loss to explain his team's sudden offensive explosion, but he hopes it's a sign of things to come for the Rebels, who are heating up at the right time as they strive to finish among the league's top eight teams and make the playoffs.
"Anytime you can put up double-digit hits and runs, you give your team and pitcher a pretty good chance," said Paluga, whose team started the season 2-9. "I don't know if it had something to do with the four-day layoff or not. I hope the guys know that we're not going to have those every week.
"It's a long season. And even though we're well into the second half, there are a good amount of games left. We'll worry about getting into the top eight first, then we'll play for seeding."
Eight different players drove in runs for a New Market team that entered the game averaging just under four runs a game and batting a collective .231. Trey Karlen and Kenny Mickens each added home runs for the Rebels, who nearly hit half their season total of nine in Thursday's game.
Rebels starting pitcher Brian Edelen benefited from the hefty run support. Edelen (2-3) scattered six hits and allowed four runs over five innings of work. Andrew Kirk was even more effective, pitching four innings of one-hit relief. He walked three and struck out six to earn the save.
The Royals (17-12), who entered Thursday's contest just one-half game behind league-leading Luray and Haymarket, saw their four-game winning streak snapped.
"They certainly hit the ball well tonight," Royals manager John Lowery said. "We got behind early. We had a few runners on, but we couldn't get that key hit to make it a little tighter and keep us encouraged."
Designated hitter Raymond Church drove in three of Winchester's three runs with a bases-clearing double to right in the fifth. Colby Gratton added an RBI single, and Steve Sabins had two of the Royals' seven hits.
Jon Jones (2-2), the first of five Winchester pitchers on the night, took the loss, surrendering seven hits and seven earned runs in three innings.