By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Front Royal's Dalton Potts knew something wasn't right.
Potts struggled in the third inning of his game against Winchester on Friday night, so after the inning he decided to go throw a few extra pitches in the bullpen. The extra time helped as he came back and was flawless for the next four innings to help lead the Cardinals to a 3-1 Valley Baseball League victory over the Royals.
"I just went to the bullpen, threw a few pitches and figured out what I was doing wrong," Potts said. "I was up high in the zone, and once I made an adjustment I felt much better after that.
"Pitching is all about making adjustments."
Potts went seven innings, allowing just six hits and striking out seven and did enough to give the Cardinals the chance to win the game.
"Dalton started off a little rough," Front Royal manager Jake Weghorst said. "Once he got it together and got his pitches back in the zone, he gave us a quality start."
The game was tied at 1-1 through three innings. Front Royal scored a run in the bottom of the fourth and the bottom of the fifth to take the lead for good.
In the bottom of the fourth, Front Royal's Aaron Moore drew a leadoff walk from Winchester starter Gavin Free. A sacrifice bunt by Jose Torralba moved Moore to second and a passed ball moved him to third. Moore eventually scored on a wild pitch to give the Cardinals a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Andrew Seigel singled. Brandon Tierney hit into a fielder's choice. J.C.Cardenas singled and Tierney scored on a sacrifice fly by Brent Morris.
"I think we really executed some things well," Weghorst said. "We had some hit-and-runs, stole some bases, had some sac bunts. Fundamentally, we were very good tonight."
The Royals (2-6) scored a run in the top of the first. Erick Quesada led off with a single off Potts. Quesada moved to second on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. Two outs later, Jake Cintolo's RBI single gave the Royals a 1-0 lead.
The Cardinals (5-4) tied the game in the bottom of the third. Seigel led off with a single and Tierney followed with an infield single off Winchester's Free. Cardenas' RBI groundout tied the game at 1-1.
Potts narrowly escaped big trouble in the top of the third. Quesada led off with a single and Andrew Widell and Cintolo each drew a one-out walk to load the bases. However, Jimmy Spanos hit into a double play to end the threat.
"Getting out of that inning was huge," Potts said. "My confidence was low at that point. To get that ground ball helped give me a little more confidence."
Free pitched a solid 8 2/3 innings for the Royals. He struck out seven and allowed only seven hits.
"Gavin Free threw a heck of a game," Winchester manager Kyle Phelps said. "When a guy throws that good, you want to give him a win. They were able to push a single run across in the third, fourth and fifth innings, and unfortunately we weren't able to push more runs across to help him out."
The Cardinals are now above .500, and Potts said he believes the team will continue to get better as the season goes along.
"I think our pitching's doing well," Potts said. "I think our bats will start to get on a roll in the next couple weeks as they get more used to the wooden bats. I think we're going to have a real good season, make the playoffs and try to go as far as we can. I'm real excited for the rest of the season."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com