By Greg Brill - email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Talk to Haymarket pitcher Greg Nappo, and the left-hander will tell you he is not big on strikeouts.
For the University of Connecticut this spring, Nappo was a weekend rotation regular who pitched more to contact and let his defense make plays behind him.
Nappo's summer teammates did not get many plays behind him on Wednesday night -- simply because Nappo was nothing short of dominant for eight innings at Bing Crosby Stadium.
Nappo allowed just one hit, walked four and struck out 13 Cardinals -- the most for any pitcher in the Valley Baseball League this season -- to spark the Senators to a 3-0 win.
"I don't like striking people out," Nappo said. "Pitching to contact works for me. Getting 13 [strikeouts], that's kind of cool. That's not how I pitch, but we got the 'W' and that's what's really important to me."
Grant Sasser kept the shutout intact in the ninth for his first save as Haymarket (13-8) moved into a tie for first place in the VBL, following Harrisonburg's 7-1 loss at home Wednesday to last-place New Market.
Winning on the road was crucial for Haymarket, which had lost four of six games coming in and were 4-7 on the road. The Senators got their first road win since June 19, when they picked up a 7-0 win at Covington.
"The road's the big thing in this league -- if you can win on the road in this league, you'll be all right," Haymarket manager Ryan Fecteau said. "You try to hold your ground at home, but yeah, tonight was definitely huge to beat a good team like Front Royal."
The pitching of Nappo (3-0) carried the Senators through much of the way. And it had to, with Front Royal starter Ricky Ott (0-1) pitching well and giving the Cardinals a chance to compete.
"It really doesn't change anything for me," Nappo said of pitching with a one-run lead most of the way. "It's just locating down, throwing strikes, and getting the fastball in for strikes. That's just a really big part of what I do well and what helps the team stay alive out here."
Once Yoandy Barroso (4-for-5, two RBIs) had a two-run hit in the ninth, the Senators finally could feel some relief.
"We were trying to scrap runs across the whole time," Fecteau said. "We got one [run] early, and that was big for us.
"We were trying to play for one run every inning, which is different from the way we've been going. Yoandy's hit -- that was huge. We just moved Yoandy to the leadoff spot to try things a little different. He's quite the presence at the plate, so I think he might stay there for a while."
The run the Senators put across in the first inning looked like it would stand up throughout. Barroso hit a ground single up the middle leading the game off, went to second on a sacrifice and to third on a wild pitch.
With one out, Austin Schultz looped an RBI single into right field for a 1-0 lead.
The Cardinals had a tough time right away. Nappo struck out five of the first seven batters he faced and had a no-hitter through four innings.
But in the fifth, Front Royal (11-10) had its best shot to do damage.
Matt Holland singled sharply up the middle leading off with what would turn out to be the Cardinals' only hit. Sean Jamieson then drew his second walk and Pete Greskoff moved the runners with a sacrifice.
With two runners in scoring position, the Cardinals could not come through. Logan Gillis grounded sharply to first, and Alex Maruri gunned to the plate to nail Holland trying to score from third.