By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- In a contest between the last-place teams in the Valley Baseball League North and South divisions, the Front Royal Cardinals combined a potent offense and effective pitching for a convincing 8-3 win over the Covington Lumberjacks on Monday night at Bing Crosby Stadium.
The Cardinals (10-17) flew high from the start, jumping all over Covington (8-17) starter Zach Fleshman for five runs on five hits and error, plus a walk in the first inning.
Left fielder Pat Talbut had the key hit in the outburst, a two-out single to right, driving in the third and fourth Front Royal runs. But Talbut was cut down at second base, trying to stretch his hit to a double.
Front Royal added runs in second, fourth and fifth innings, with RBIs off the bats of Jordan Lee on a single, Chris Gruarin with a double and David Atwood with a single.
Talbut, a St. John's junior appearing in only his third game with the Cardinals, finished 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run to improve his batting average to .385.
"We put some good at-bats together, got some timely hitting and threw the ball really well and played well behind the pitcher," Talbut said. "I had two strikes on me and missed a slider, so I was looking fastball away mostly, and I got it and was just able to put a good swing on it."
Cardinals starting pitcher Josh Harlow, worked five innings and gave up two runs on five hits, with four strikeouts, two walks and a wild pitch to earn his first decision in his fifth start.
The worst mistake Harlow made was giving up a two-run homer in the second inning to Covington first baseman Oscar Romero, who entered the contest hitting .153. It was Romero's first round-tripper of the season.
Harlow, a WVU junior, shut down the league's second-leading hitter, Ryan Sullivan, who entered batting .447. He went 0-for-3 against Harlow and drew a walk off of reliever Josh Fitzsimmons.
"I feel not too bad about my outing," Harlow said. "I was just trying to throw strikes. I was a little sore in the beginning, but as the game went on, I feel like I got stronger. That was the first start I've had since high school. I feel like I didn't do that bad, but I didn't do really good, either.
"[Getting big run support early] is a big weight lifted off your shoulders. You just know that if you go out there and pound the zone, more than likely, only the best hitters in the league bat a bit over .300. If you just force contact, the odds are in your favor."
Additional Front Royal batters getting two hits were Matt Murakami, Gruarin, Lee, and the designated hitter Atwood.
In addition to Talbut, Gruarin and Lee hit two-baggers.
Fleshman took the loss and is now 0-4.
It was the second and last head-to-head contest for the teams in the regular-season schedule. Front Royal won the first of the pair, 4-0, at Covington on June 20.
Front Royal's Murakami, pitchers Trevor Graham and Jake McWhirter, second baseman Luis Renvill and first baseman Corey Dick were announced as selections to the North Division VBL All-Star team. The All-Star game will be played at Bing Crosby Stadium on Sunday.