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By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW MARKET -- Host New Market took advantage of three critical Front Royal errors and clutch pitching by Rebels starter Brad Nease to upend the Cardinals 3-1 Thursday in Valley League baseball.
"We talk every day about taking advantage of the other team's mistakes," New Market manager Corey Paluga said. "This really wasn't our best effort offensively, but we were able to take advantage of their mistakes to get the win and every win is a good one."
New Market didn't take long to take advantage of Front Royal's miscues. After a double by Stephen Oswald scored T.J. Kuban in the bottom of the first, Oswald was able to score and increase the Rebels' lead to 2-0 after a fielding error on a grounder by Cardinals first baseman Greg Annarummo.
The Rebels' other run was also the result of a pair of errors by Front Royal in the sixth inning.
While the Cardinals were giving away unearned runs to New Market, the Rebels completely shut down Front Royal's offense for eight innings, thanks to great pitching from Nease and error-free baseball by the New Market defense.
"My slider was really working tonight," Nease said. "I was also getting my fastball in there, and that helped me get ahead in the count. But getting those early runs really gave us all a jump-start, and the play of our defense was absolutely amazing. Every one of them had a good game out there."
Nease, however, had to prove his value in two critical situations with the bases loaded. In both the second and fourth innings, the St. Mary's College (Calif.) sophomore faced Cardinals second baseman Chris Triplett with two outs and the bases full of Front Royal runners.
In both instances, Nease struck out Triplett to end the inning without allowing a run. He got the win, scattering six hits over six innings on the mound, struck out eight batters and walked two.
Vince Claudio took the loss for Front Royal, allowing three runs on five hits through six innings. He struck out five and walked two.
The Cardinals did make things interesting in the ninth, scoring one run and putting the tying run on second base with two outs. But Rebels relief pitcher Tony Hearrell got James Young to ground out to third to end the game.
"We're going to fight until the end, and we've been that way all year," Cardinals manager Rusty Bennett said. "We could've rolled over in the last inning, but that's not the character of this team. It's still early in the season and we're still playing good baseball overall."