By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- The Winchester Royals took full advantage of the hitter-friendly confines of the Strasburg Express home, First Bank Park, to bash four solo home runs on the way to an 8-1 victory in Valley Baseball League action Sunday evening.
The Express used seven pitchers (one a position player) in undergoing an 18-5 thrashing by the North Division last-place Front Royal Cardinals, Saturday night.
Strasburg started, new arrival, right-hander Tyler Intyre. Intyre had a rough time as the Royals took full advantage of the short distances -- 300 feet down the lines and 365 to straightaway center.
Winchester, leading the league in six offensive categories, including 34 home runs, gave Intyre a rude welcome. Lead-off batter Leo Rojas lofted a 1-2 pitch over the short fence in straightaway left for his fifth round-tripper of the year.
Brad Picha followed with a single to center, but was caught-stealing.
Next up, James Yezzo knocked a 2-2 pitch well over the center-field fence (seventh of the season) to establish a lightening quick 3-0 lead for the Royals.
Winchester (19-8) continued its barrage in the second when Jamill Moquette powered the longest dinger of the game. The blast landed halfway up one of the very tall trees behind the left-field fence to give Winchester a 3-0 lead.
Express (10-17) right fielder Albert Faz showed that Strasburg could also take advantage of those distances, when he smacked a first-pitch fastball from Royals starter James Baune over the left-field fence, for his second dinger of the season.
Faz went 2-for-4, getting half of Strasburg's hits.
That was the only Express run of the game, as Baune, a lanky (6-foot-3, 185 pound) lefty sophomore from South Arkansas, using a fastball with plenty of zip, mixed with an effective slider and change-up, to limit Strasburg to four hits in sixth innings of work. He finished with eight strikeouts and one walk to earn the win.
"I kinda wish I had gone a little longer," Baune said. "My arm was getting kinda tired. I took a while off after school, and it's kinda getting back into the game. I've pitched against [Strasburg] three times, and I felt confident tonight."
Winchester's fourth homer came off Joseph Odom's bat, as he led off the fifth with his league-leading ninth dinger of the season.
Odom, a Huntingdon sophomore, finished with a 3-for-5 evening, with three runs scored and an RBI.
"I'm really not focusing on hitting home runs, just trying to put good swings on the ball, and it's just clicking for me right now," Odom said. "It's kinda hard to sit back and watch all these guys hittin bombs. You try not to over-swing to join them, because you see the balls flying out, but I'm just trying to get those good swings and it's absolutely fat for me."
David Hafer relieved Intyre in the fifth after Odom's homer with one out.
Intyre (0-1) gave up six runs (all earned) on 10 his, had three strikeouts and two walks for the loss.
The Express also sent Kevin Herget, Matt Dybus, and Adam Cherry to the mound. The Royals picked up two more runs, on a two-RBI single by William Bynum, who was inserted in the sixth inning. Both of those runs were charged to Herget.
Dybus and Cherry retired the Royals in order in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, for a minor positive for Strasburg.
Picha (2-for-4) was the only Royal, other than Odom, with multiple hits in the Royals' attack.
"We're just trying to keep our heads down and just keep playing," Odom said. "We just keep winning and winning and we don't want to slack off. We just want to keep playing hard. And every pitch be ready to play, be in the game at all times. And just try to keep this gravy train rolling."
The Express' loss kept the standings for fourth, fifth, and sixth place in the North Division very tight. Only to the top four finishers in each division qualify for postseason play.
"[Intyre] threw strikes -- better than all the walks we've had lately," Express manager Butch Barnes said. "I don't care if they hit it out of the ball park. A couple of those climbed down the back down the back side of the fence. [Intyre] does throw strikes and that's why we brought him in. We can't continue to walk guys like we did, 11 or 12 last night, and expect to win.
"You get a night like that [against Front Royal]. We've got 14 guys on the staff, and we'll go get it."