By Brian Eller -- firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- As he stood up to dust himself off, his left foot anchored on first base, Kevin Brashears couldn't help but grin. The Winchester Royals center fielder realized he had just gotten away with a call from the umpire. After leading off the top of the first with a single, Brashears had dangled a bit too far off the bag, and appeared to have been tagged for the game's first out.
A safe call from the umpire, however, gave Brashears new life, and both he and the Royals took advantage. On the very next pitch, Royals shortstop Cory Spangenberg ripped a double to center field, bringing Brashears in to score and opening up an eight-run first inning as Winchester rolled to a 12-5 win over New Market Wednesday.
"I think I got away with one there," Brashears said, chuckling after the game. "I was talking to the first baseman and I think I was out, but I switched my feet in midair so it caught a little confusion with the umpire, so you know we got away with it."
The apparent blown call sent Rebels skipper Corey Paluga out of the dugout for a conference, but to no avail. Play resumed and the Winchester bats took full advantage of their "extra out."
With a runner on and no outs instead of the bases empty with one out, Spangenberg's double helped bring in the first run as the Royals took an early lead off Rebels starter Brian Edelen. Spangenberg then scored on an RBI single from Ryan Church, one of two RBIs for the designated hitter. Edelen, meanwhile, couldn't seem to find his groove, eventually allowing the Royals to bat around the order. Finally, after two-thirds of an inning and eight runs given up, Edelen's night was finished and it seemed as though New Market's was, too.
"Any time you put yourself in a hole like that, it puts some pressure on the offense early in the game," Paluga said. "Edelen, I don't really know what went wrong for him tonight, whether he was just tired or what the problem was. Do I still have confidence in him? Of course. It was just one of those rough outings you don't like to see."
Benefiting from a gigantic cushion, Winchester starter Danny Dierdorff went to work against the Rebel bats, allowing just one run on three hits through the first six innings. In the bottom of the seventh, though, Dierdorff ran out of gas, giving New Market the chance to climb back into the game. After a leadoff triple from Kevin Brown, catcher Joe Maloney laced an RBI single to left field, scoring Brown and giving the Rebels their first back-to-back hits of the night.
Dierdorff finished the night pitching seven strong innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. Any momentum gained by the Rebels was quickly diminished, however, as Winchester's offense picked it back up in the eighth and ninth innings, scoring one in the eighth and three in the ninth to ensure the win.
With the victory, Winchester clinches a spot in the Valley League playoffs, while New Market continues to fight for a spot. For Royals coach John Lowery, however, Wednesday's goal was finished, even if his team got away with one in the end.
"[Tuesday] night we couldn't score a run and we came out tonight and got the cushion," Lowery said. "Any time you can jump ahead early you can play a lot more relaxed, and I thought our guys did that. Now we've got a spot in the playoffs and hopefully we can continue this momentum and get home-field advantage."