By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Winchester Post 21 benefited from an approaching severe thunderstorm in a 4-3 win over Front Royal Post 53 in American Legion baseball at Bing Crosby Stadium on Friday night.
Post 21 had a 4-1 lead after the top of eighth inning, and Post 53 rallied for two runs in the bottom of the frame. With Post 21's lead-off batter at the plate in the ninth, lightning was sighted at 9:25 p.m. Game officials, aware of a severe thunderstorm warning, decided to call it official.
Post 21 starting pitcher Chase Smallwood completed seven innings using only 85 pitches, giving up one run on four hits with five strikeouts and one walk to earn the win.
Chaz Rutherford had to labor much harder as Post 53's starter, tossing 119 pitches through six innings, yielding two runs -- both unearned because of an error he committed. He struck out five, walked five, hit a batter and became the losing pitcher.
In spite of throwing 103 pitches through five innings, Rutherford shut out Post 21 during that stretch.
In the sixth, Post 21 lead-off batter John Bentley was hit by a Rutherford pitch and was forced out at second on a fielder's choice by Scottie Nicholson.
Kendall Ulmer then singled to center, advancing Nicholson to second. Drew Paice then hit a come-backer to Rutherford, who overthrew third base attempting for force out Nicholson and the ball traveled nearly to the left-field corner, enabling Nicholson and Ulmer to score the first two runs of the game.
Front Royal (4-8 district and overall) answered in the bottom of the frame with Taylor Loudan leading off with double to right field, Post 53's first extra-base hit of the game.
Two out later, Jeff Cash singled to left, plating Loudan, to make the score 2-1.
Cash relieved Rutherford on the mound to start the seventh and shut out Winchester in that frame.
But Post 21 (9-2 district, 13-4 overall) touched up Cash for two runs in eighth beginning with pinch hitter Grant Ducker's single and move up to second on a wild pitch.
Ulmer drew a walk and Paice, attempting to bunt, hit the ball hard enough to get through for a base hit to load the bases.
Successive sacrifice flies by Unger and Jalen Newcome enabled Ducker and Ulmer to tag up and score, increasing Post 21's lead to 4-1.
Matt Copley relieved Smallwood to start the eighth and Post 53 liked the change as Loudan lashed a lead-off single, followed by an RBI double off the bat of Tyler Post.
Post advanced to third on a Logan Hibbs flyout and scored on a Cash groundout to narrow the gap to 4-3.
Unger went 3-for-4 with an RBI to lead Post 21's batters and Loudan was 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored for Post 53.
The severe weather was Winchester's friend, as the game was declared complete after eight due to the approaching thunderstorm. The teams and fans scattered to their vehicles as strong winds turned the Crosby Stadium infield into a dust storm.