By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Just one day after Front Royal found a little ninth-inning magic in a walk-off win over Aldie, the Cardinals found themselves on the other end of a late-inning rally when they faced Woodstock at Bing Crosby Stadium on Tuesday night.
With the game tied and runners on the corners and two outs against Front Royal reliever Wesley Cox, Woodstock's Jordan Edgerton stepped to the plate looking to deliver a decisive blow for the River Bandits in the top of the ninth inning.
But it turned out that a big two-out hit was not needed, as Cox's first delivery to Edgerton hit the dirt and bounced away from catcher Andrew Murphy, allowing the River Bandits to score the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run in a 6-5 win.
"We take it anyway we can get it. It's kind of what we've been doing all year," River Bandits manager Phil Betterly said. "Sometimes it doesn't happen the conventional way, but we scratch and claw our way to find a way to get it done."
The game began on a high note for a Front Royal squad that has struggled to produce runs this season, as the Cardinals tacked on three runs in the bottom of the first inning against Woodstock (21-12) starter Brett Mays.
Brent Morris opened the scoring for Front Royal (16-19) with an RBI sacrifice fly to right, and Andrew Murphy followed two batters later with an RBI double to right-center. A Woodstock throwing error on Murphy's double also allowed another Cardinals runner to score.
Mays, making his River Bandits debut after pitching most of the summer in the Rockingham County Baseball League, allowed five runs (two earned) on five hits and four walks over four-plus innings.
Woodstock answered with four runs in the top of the third inning off Front Royal starter Caleb Ross.
Cody Queen started the inning with a single and was quickly brought home on a two-run homer by Rob Jennings (3-for-4, 3 RBIs). Back-to-back RBI doubles by Nick Walker and Drew Cole gave Woodstock a 4-3 lead.
Ross lasted just three-plus innings while giving up five earned runs on six hits.
"I was sitting there thinking we have a 3-0 lead, that hasn't happened in a while," Cardinals manager Jake Weghorst said. "But Caleb didn't have his best stuff. He was leaving a lot of his off-speed up, and they were hitting it."
The Cardinals added a run in the bottom of the third when Aaron Moore's sacrifice fly tied the game at 4-4 before Woodstock regained the lead on an RBI single by Jennings in the fourth.
Front Royal squeezed out another run on a balk by River Bandits reliever Adam Lamar in the bottom of the fifth, and neither offense could manage anything as the score remained tied until the ninth.
Lamar pitched the final five innings to get the win for Woodstock, allowing just three hits while striking out four.
The loss was a tough one for Front Royal, as the Cardinals are desperately clinging to that fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division with nine games remaining in the regular season.
Woodstock, on the other hand, remains in control of first place in the North with the victory. The River Bandits entered Tuesday 3½ games ahead of second-place Charles Town.
"We're starting to play well again, and it's hard to do but we're taking it day by day," Betterly said. "That's cliché, but it's something that you can't scoreboard watch, you just have to take it day by day and just keep putting a good effort out there."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org