By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- Last Tuesday, it was a three-run homer by Sean Jamieson that provided the big blow in Front Royal's first-round Valley Baseball League series win over Waynesboro.
On Monday night, a walk-off single in extra innings by Jamieson did just fine.
Jamieson's single to the gap in right-center off Jerome Werniuk plated pinch-runner Hal Landers with the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning, and Front Royal kept its season alive for another day by beating top-seed Haymarket 6-5 to even the best-of-three semifinal series at a game apiece.
"Guy on third with two outs, I didn't need a homer, didn't need a double. I just needed a single," Jamieson said. "I knew [Werniuk] was going to bring fastballs, because he kept coming inside all night with fastballs.
"He kept throwing in, in, and in, then he'd go out [of the zone]. I just got inside of [the last pitch] and tried to drive it."
The Cardinals will travel to Haymarket tonight, and would clinch a date with Luray in the best-of-three championship series with another win.
It will be tough for Front Royal, which is 0-4 at Haymarket this season and are expected to see Senators ace Matt Benedict tonight.
"We've had a back-and-forth season," Jamieson said. "But the last few weeks, we've just turned it around and now we've become the team that just wants to take it all. We're a better team than those other teams because we have the guys that want to [win]."
Front Royal manager Joe Scarano won't mind. If the Cardinals win tonight they will win another playoff series. Before beating Waynesboro 2-1 in the first round, Front Royal had not won a playoff series since 1997.
"If you're going to win in the playoffs you've either got to be really good or you've got to be good enough and get some help," Scarano said. "I think [Monday night] we were good enough and had some help.
"There were some key innings that we scored runs where they either had an error or we got a hop in our favor. So tonight we got a little bit of luck, but you've got to have that if you're going to win."
Haymarket helped Front Royal along at times, making four errors that led to five unearned runs after the fifth inning.
Front Royal trailed 2-0 before pushing four across in the sixth -- all unearned -- to take their first lead of the series.
Two errors by starting pitcher Grant Sasser, sandwiched around a Matt Holland single, loaded the bases with no outs. One out later, Andy Drexel and Drew Gadaire each followed with clutch hits.
Drexel got two RBIs on his single to right, and moved up a base when the hit was misplayed. Gadaire, who missed over a week of action late in the season due to an injury, then ripped a first-pitch double to right to plate Pete Greskoff and Drexel for a 4-2 lead.
In Game 1 of the Haymarket series, Gadaire had went 0-for-2 and was lifted for a pinch-hitter midway through the game.
"After [Sunday] -- when he hadn't swung the bat well at all -- he made some adjustments and he was able to put the ball in play hard," Scarano said of Gadaire. "That's good, and we're going to need him, especially with [Will] Walsh's injury."
Haymarket came back to tie with two runs in the seventh, before the Cardinals scored the go-ahead run on a bizarre play in the bottom of the seventh.
With Greskoff on first after a two-out walk, Jamieson drove a single to right. The hit was again bobbled, but the throw from the outfield went wildly to first. Haymarket first baseman Tyler White retrieved the loose ball near Haymarket's dugout and gunned home with Greskoff wheeling around third. Though the throw beat him to the plate, Greskoff slid around Jim Vahalik's tag for a 5-4 lead.
The lead held up until the ninth. The Senators pushed across the tying run when, on a possible game-ending double-play grounder, the Cardinals could only get the force at second, allowing the batter to beat the turn to first, and the runner from third to score.
From there, Haymarket could not muster much offense against Front Royal's third pitcher, Tyler Vanderheiden. A submarine specialist, Vanderheiden, who signed in late July, pitched a scoreless 10th and 11th. The right-hander walked one and allowed just one hit in gaining the win.
"I just came into a big situation and tried to throw strikes," Vanderheiden said. "I had no room [for error] to give up a run and just tried to give my team a chance to win. You go out there and throw strikes and don't worry about the outcome. You don't try to do more than you can."
The Cardinals had went in order in the ninth and 10th against Jerome Werniuk, but got to the tall right-hander for the winning tally in the 11th.
Greg Van Sickler -- 0-for-5 to that point -- grounded a sharp single by second baseman Austin Schultz leading off. After Landers was sent in to run, James Roche struck out. Holland then grounded out to second to move Landers up a base, and Landers then got to third on a wild pitch.
After another walk to Greskoff, Jamieson got his second hit to extend the series to another day.
Dan Smith took a tough, no-decision for Front Royal, pitching into the seventh and giving up just two runs. Kyle Scallion followed before Vanderheiden took over.
Scarano will start left-hander Colin McGowan in Game 3 tonight.