By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The Front Royal American Legion Post 53 baseball team ended the regular season on a sour note, dropping both ends of a double header, 7-5 to Stafford Post 290's National team in the opener, and 11-1 to Post 290's American squad, in the second game.
Post 53's pitching woes were painfully evident in the second contest as starting pitcher Tyler Moody, a Warren County High School graduate, struggled to find the plate. Accordingly, four of his pitches hit Stafford batters, including three in a row in the first inning, as Post 290 American scored three runs while getting only one hit, a lead-off single by Mike Bruno.
Bruno stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball, and scored on another passed ball.
J.J. McDaniel drew a walk, followed by the hit by pitch parade with Jeff Czeslewitz, Tyler Skidmore, and Cody Rowe taking shots to the body for their team.
LaRowe's bruise pushed McDaniel across the dish, and Justin Kime followed with a sacrifice fly, scoring Czeslewitz.
Post 290 American tacked on four more tallies in the second, getting started with a lead-off single by Andrew Shiper, followed by walks issued to Bruno and McDaniel.
Czeslewitz laced a single to left, driving in Shiper and Bruno. One out later, LaRowe lofted a sacrifice fly to center, enabling McDaniel to cross the plate.
Kime cashed in again, with a double to left, driving in Czeslewitz with the team's seventh run, while Front Royal still had yet to get on the board.
Ryan Somerville led off the third by being the fourth batter to be hit with a Moody pitch, followed by a fly out by Shiper.
Post 53 (7-13) then extinguished the Stafford offense as rightfielder Logan Hibbs gloved Bruno's soft liner, and threw Somerville out at first, after moving too far off the bag on Bruno's fly.
Front Royal got its only run off Stafford 290 American starter Corey Haynes in the third, when Heath Almarode led off by reaching on an error by Kime.
One out later, Taylor Loudan, a Sherando rising senior, doubled of right-fielder LaRowe's head, to plate Almarode with an unearned run.
Moody returned to the mound in the fourth and met instant adversity when McDaniel led off with a triple to the left-center gap, and continued on to cross the plate when Loudan made an errant relay throw.
Czeslewitz was hit with a Moody pitch for the second time, and he was finally relieved by lefty Joey Catalani.
Skidmore singled, followed by Czeslewitz's theft of third, with Skidmore taking second on defensive indifference. Kime then hit a two-run single.
That brought Kime's offensive totals to 2-for-2, with a double, four RBIs and two runs scored.
"I've actually been a little cold lately -- I've actually been slumping a lot," said Kime, a Mountain View graduate. "When I came up with runners in scoring position, it actually helped me out. I knew I just had to put the ball in play. With that in my mind-set, it was actually easier to get a base hit."
Stafford then picked up it's third unearned run when Frances Gryzmoski reached on Loudan's second error of the inning, which enabled Kime to score Post 290 American's 11th run.
Catalani then got Somerville to ground into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play, and shut out Stafford in the fifth, facing five batters.
"[Catalini] has just really surprised me this year," Post 53 manager Danny Wood said. "The first time I saw him, I thought he had a good arm. But I was concerned about his ability to throw strikes, because I didn't know if he got any pitching time at Warren County this year.
"But he's come in and done exactly what I hoped he would -- be competitive, throw strikes and be around the plate. So I'm very pleased with his performance this year, and I hope it gets him ready to help Warren County next year."
After hitting lead-off batter Loudan with a pitch to start the fifth, Haynes finished strong by striking out the next three Front Royal batters, which ended the game due to a 10-run mercy rule.
Haynes scattered three hits in giving up one unearned, run, struck out nine, and issued no walks for the win. Post 290 American moved to 12-5 with two games to play before the District 16 tournament.
"I felt stronger as I went along," Haynes said. "I felt good in the last inning. The location of my fastball was really helping me out. I was keeping it down, and my change-up was working.
"I have great, great players -- they never give up," Post 290 American manager John Somerville said. "They cashed in and kept the pressure on Front Royal, big time."
In the first game of the twin bill, Stafford entered the seventh frame with a 6-5 lead, and picked up a bit of cushion when Steven Pauh hit a ball over rightfielder Cody Zimmerman's head for a double and was plated by Cody Beacorn's single.
Stafford reliever Stephen Paugh issued a two-out walk to Zimmerman, then struck out Justin Angel for his third save, preserving the win for starter Justin Thomas.
Aaron Cook went 2-for-3 with an RBI in Post 53's five-hit attack, which was aided by four Stafford errors. Post 53 starter Chaz Rutherford was charged with the loss.
The District 16 tournament starts on Friday. Stafford will host the state tournament.