By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- On the morning of July 7, players of the Front Royal Cardinals woke up to learn they had earned a share of the lead in the Valley Baseball League.
The Cardinals have not won since and have fallen hard from their perch.
Last-place Rockbridge continued Front Royal's swoon on Monday night, picking up a 9-5 win and sending the Cardinals to their seventh straight loss.
By the end of the third inning, the Rapids (11-21) had a 7-0 lead. The win was the second-season program's best-ever third straight, all coming on the road.
Excellent in two prior pitching starts, Front Royal right-hander Josh Hoguet (1-2) never got going against Rockbridge. Hoguet gave up run-scoring hits to Jack Hudson and William Smalls in the second, then couldn't get out of the third when the Rapids put across five runs (four unearned) to move out to a commanding lead.
The Rapids found different ways to score, though they rarely hit the ball hard. Rockbridge scored one run on a bloop hit just over first baseman Pete Greskoff's head in shallow right field, and another came across on Hudson's sacrifice fly.
Batting ninth and with just one hit on the season, the rarely-used Hudson went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the win.
Smalls had the biggest hit and most productive bat on the night for Rockbridge. Smalls followed Hudson's sac fly with a three-run double to the right-field corner for a 7-0 lead to knock Hoguet out.
Smalls, batting .200 in 30 at-bats coming in, went 4-for-5 with three RBIs on the night to pace Rockbridge's 17-hit attack.
Kyle Scallion followed Hoguet and pitched into the eighth before Matt Holland finished up for Front Royal. The pair combined to pitch well and hold the Rapids to just two more runs.
Offensively, the Cardinals (15-17) waited way too late to do much damage.
Holland and Greskoff each homered, but it was not enough to keep Front Royal from losing for the sixth time over its last seven home games.
Andy Smithmeyer pitched into the seventh to get his first win for the Rapids.