By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- The triple-digit temperatures that held throughout most of the day did not keep the fans away from Rebel Park on Thursday evening when New Market hosted Front Royal in Valley League action.
The two teams on the field did not disappoint as they squared off in a showdown that quickly became a pitching duel. Only three runs were scored on the evening, all off of solo homers, but it was the New Market offense that was able to pull out just enough contact for a 2-1 victory.
Blain Sims took the mound for the Rebels and breezed through the Cardinals' lineup early on as he only faced one more than the minimum up to the fifth inning. Sims was backed by a solid defense that turned a pair of double plays to keep their pitcher on track.
"Blaine [Sims] pitched a great game for us tonight," Rebels manager Corey Paluga said. "He has put together three straight very solid starts and when I talked to the pitching coach tonight, we didn't think he had his best stuff."
Front Royal starter Josh Hoguet was just as impressive, giving up six hits scattered through a complete game performance. Unfortunately, with little run support, two of those hits made the difference on the night.
"Josh [Hoguet] did a great job tonight," Cardinals manager Joe Scarano said. "He threw 85 pitches in a complete game and gave us a chance to win. You can't ask for more than that from your starter."
In the third inning, William Faulkner led off against Hoguet. The right-handed shortstop turned on a pitch from Hoguet that was just a bit high in the strike zone and cleared the fence to give his team a 1-0 lead. The home run was the first for Faulkner on the season.
One inning later, the Rebels would strike again. This time, third baseman Ryan Williams connected on a pitch to an almost identical part of the stadium. The hit just cleared the fence and was signaled a home run for Williams, his first of the season, giving his team a two-run advantage and sending the Rebel faithful into a frenzy.
"We have been fortunate that we have different players stepping up on different nights," Paluga said. "Tonight we had a couple of guys step up with big hits that made the difference. It's good in a way because we have players that can create, and we don't always have to depend on the same guys every night."
Finding themselves in an all-too-familiar situation, the Cardinals knew they needed to respond. In the top of the sixth, James Roche connected on a solo blast to pull his team to within a run. Unfortunately, that would be all the Cardinals could manage against the feisty Sims.
"We pitched well and our defense was pretty good," Scarano said. "Unfortunately, we did not generate much offense. We only got five hits on the night and you can't expect to win like that in the Valley League."
The Cardinals, a team that often is able to come from behind to put themselves in a situation to win, were silent from the plate.
"We have to get more production from the bottom of our lineup," Scarano said. "We have pretty good hitters in the middle who can and will hit. But we need the other guys to step up and give us an opportunity to manufacture runs when we get back to the top of the lineup. Once we figure that out, we will be fine."
Sims left in the seventh inning, but the victory was preserved when relievers Jake Guengerich and Tony Hearrell combined to shut down Front Royal for 2 1/3 innings to give their team the win and continue the momentum they feel they have established heading towards the all star break.
"We have started putting things together and we are in the right direction," Paluga said. "We just have to take things one night at a time. Right now we are focusing on getting back to .500 and landing in the final spot to make a run in the playoffs. Once we get to that position, then we can worry about trying to move up the standings."