By Ben Brooks - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- After an eight-run first-inning explosion Thursday night, the last thing the Winchester Royals appeared to need would be late-inning heroics.
As it turned out, the Royals needed every bit of their early outburst. The Royals withstood Waynesboro's 16-hit attack and survived the Generals' middle-innings rally to take a 15-12 Valley Baseball League victory at Bridgeforth Field.
In a game that sometimes resembled a slow-pitch softball contest, Winchester twice saw leads of seven or more runs trimmed to three or less. The last time came in the seventh when Waynesboro's Grant Fillipitch belted a solo homer to left that cut the deficit to 13-11. However, Cody Gaskill's two-run shot in the bottom of the eighth -- the fourth no-doubt homer of the game -- gave Winchester the insurance it needed. Relief pitchers Stephen Cooke and Matt Zahel worked three innings of one-run relief to help the Royals defeat the Generals for the third time this summer.
With two outs in the eighth and the Royals clinging to a two-run lead, Gaskill fell behind 0-2 in the count to Waynesboro's sixth pitcher, Andrew Blackwell. Gaskill, a junior second baseman from Tennessee Wesleyan, battled back and worked the count full before depositing a slider over the fence in left.
"He threw me a 3-2 fastball and I fouled it straight back," said Gaskill, one of three Royals with three RBIs on the night. "I had a good idea he was going to throw me a slider. He threw me three straight earlier. I knew it was coming."
Gaskill's fourth home run of the season gave the Royals (16-11) some breathing room even though the Generals didn't go down without a fight, scoring one run on two hits in the ninth against Zahel, the VBL saves leader.
"You've got to get them out 27 times," said Royals manager John Lowery, whose team won its third straight. "I don't know how many times I've said that, but it's the truth. We scored eight early, but they still had 24 more outs to use, and they made the most of them."
Trailing 13-6 after Kevin Brashears' two-run homer in the fifth, Waynesboro (13-13) scored four times in the sixth. T.J. Kuban's three-run double highlighted the inning.
"Our guys showed great fight," Waynesboro manager Derek McDaniel said. "But at this level, you just can't give up an eight spot and expect to win."
Five of the 12 batters Winchester sent to the plate in the first inning drew walks from Generals starting pitcher Michael Reed, including two with the bases loaded. Cory Spangenberg's bases-clearing double off Waynesboro reliever Greg Smith highlighted an inning that saw the Royals score eight runs on just three hits. Seven of those runs came with two outs. The big inning might have been avoided if Generals catcher Haskell Fink had squeezed a foul ball behind the plate.
In addition to Gaskill, Winchester's Steve Sabins and Spangenberg each drove in three runs. Gaskill leads the Royals with 24 RBIs. Sabins and Raymond Church each had three hits to lead Winchester's 11-hit attack.
Of the game's 27 hits, 13 went for extra bases. The two teams combined to use 11 pitchers, none of whom lasted more than 2 2/3 innings. Cooke earned the victory for his two innings of perfect work in the seventh and eighth.
Fillipitch, Andrew Turocy, and Zephan Guyear each had three hits for Waynesboro.