By Robert Edmonds - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The Cardinals opened the Valley Baseball League postseason Tuesday night, beginning a series at home against the Waynesboro Generals, and Front Royal played one of its best games of the season to start the postseason with a win, outlasting the Generals, 6-2.
"This game was by far the best defensive game we have played all year," Cardinals manager Joe Scarano said. "As a coach, you work all summer and hope to see the best from your players when the playoffs come around. I think we saw the best tonight from our team, and it was great to watch as a coach."
Front Royal took an early lead in the third inning when Sean Jamieson scored on a passed ball to give his team a one-run advantage. The lead lasted until the sixth inning, when the Generals finally managed to get to Cardinals starter Blake Ford.
Chase Worthington and Cody Hudson connected on back-to-back singles with two outs to begin the charge. After walking the bases loaded, Ford gave up a single to Alan Stoupa to allow Worthington and Hudson to score and give the Generals a 2-1 lead.
"Blake [Ford] has always had a winning mentality," Scarano said. "It's just been a matter of time for him to match his ability with his mentality. I think he did that tonight. He was as close to his maximum as possible. He stayed composed all night and threw good pitches, especially when he was behind; he was able to come back against some good bats."
Trailing by one run, Front Royal wasted little time in regaining the lead as the Cardinals bounced back quickly in the bottom half of the inning. After the first two Cardinals batters reached base to begin the inning, first baseman Pete Greskoff drove a ball of the center-field fence to knot the score as Matt Holland scored.
With two runners on base, the Cardinals looked to regain the lead. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Jamieson found himself with an opportunity to deliver. The junior did just that as he hit a high fly ball to left field that carried over the fence for a three-run home run and put his team in command.
"I had the same situation earlier in the game with two runners on and they struck me out with a curveball," Jamieson said. "This time he came back with the same pitch and I was able to make good contact. Once I hit the ball, I pretty much knew it was going out."
Ford stepped back on the mound with a new sense of confidence in the seventh, before he eventually left the game later in the inning. Ford finished the night with four strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings pitched and was backed by a superb defensive performance from his team as he claimed the victory.
"There were no easy innings tonight," Ford said. "I struggled to get ahead of the batters, but I just kept battling the whole night. I was a little frustrated after the sixth when I gave up two runs. I had a chance to end the inning and give up no runs, but I wasn't able to finish it."
Reliever Tyler Vanderheiden didn't miss a beat when he came in for Ford, delivering 2 1/3 innings of scoreless innings. The Cardinals added an insurance run in the eighth to secure the win and take a one-game lead to Waynesboro tonight when the two teams resume the series.
"I think it's great to get this win in Game 1," Ford said. "This sets the tone and now we can go to their place with a lead, rather than going in against their fans in a one-game deficit. This was a very important game to win."