By Jeff Nations
FRONT ROYAL -- The bottom of the third inning could well have come back to haunt Randolph-Macon Academy's baseball team on Thursday against visiting Quantico.
The Yellow Jackets, leading by just a run at the time, loaded the bases with no outs against Warriors starting pitcher Alec Furiak. R-MA scored none of those runs, as Furiak induced an infield pop-up, struck out a batter and then got a fly ball to escape the inning.
R-MA (2-2, 1-1 Delaney Athletic Conference) got another chance in the fourth, and didn't let Quantico escape unscathed again as the Yellow Jackets plated five runs to break open the game for an eventual 10-0 win shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule.
In that pivotal fourth inning, Robert DeBerry laid down a textbook safety squeeze bunt. Furiak got to the ball too late to get lead runner Gabe Williams, but he tried anyway and his throw went to the backstop to allow another run in.
R-MA's Joey Monastero followed with a clean single to left to score another run, and the ball got past the outfielder for Quantico's third error of the inning to let in another run. Doug Brennand then smoked a double to left to plate the final run in the rally.
Yellow Jackets coach Robert Locklear was determined not to waste another bases-loaded opportunity after his team came up empty in the third.
"Just trying to make something happen to score a run so that we didn't leave the bases loaded again," Locklear said of DeBerry's safety squeeze play. "I talk about that all the time -- I want to steal bases, I want to put pressure on the defense."
All that pressure led to six errors by Quantico (0-4, 0-2 DAC) and helped R-MA close out the game with four more runs in the fifth.
"The kids are inexperienced," Quantico coach Paul Roy said. "We have a whole new crop of kids and most of them never played ball before. They want to come out -- they're motivated young guys and they want to play baseball, and this is an opportunity for them to play at Quantico."
Roy said his team has no home field at present, as a building project at the school wiped out the Warriors' field and will force the team to play all road games "for the next six years."
"We're practicing in parking lots," Roy said. "This is great, playing on a grass field."
In the fifth, loaded the bases again with no outs against Warriors reliever Anthony Lemons. R-MA's John Camarella then drove in a pair of runs with a single to right, DeBerry followed with a single to put two runners on and Monastero ended the game with a two-run single to left. Monastero finished with a three-hit game.
"It took us a little time to adjust, but after we saw a few we hopped on them and took advantage," Monastero said. "Top to bottom, everyone can hit just as well as the person in front of him."
R-MA freshman starting pitcher Thomas Minchew got all the offense he needed in the first inning, as Monastero reached on an error and later scored on another one.
Staked with that lead, Minchew proceeded to mow down Quantico's batting order. The right-hander fanned the first four batters he faced before allowing a single to Quantico's Trey Tafolla in the top of the second. Minchew would surrender just one other hit and a walk while striking out 13 batters en route to a two-hit shutout.
Even better than the run support in Minchew's mind was a solid defense behind him. R-MA committed no errors in the game.
"We can't make errors, that's the name of the game -- we can't make errors," Minchew said. "Today we didn't make any."
That's a welcome change from R-MA's recent shoddy efforts in the field, according to Locklear.
"We've got seven innings now without making an error -- I don't want to jinx us," Locklear said. "We made 13 against Fredericksburg Christian and then four in the first two innings the other day against Highland."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>