By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Skyline's baseball team got plenty of help from Central's defense and pitching staff on Monday night at Bing Crosby Stadium.
The Falcons committed five errors in the field, and Central's pitchers combined to throw five wild pitches and one passed ball while walking eight batters and hitting two more. That provided enough offensive opportunities for Skyline, which got a strong outing on the mound from senior Sterling Jennings en route to an 11-6 win in Conference 28 action.
"Tonight instead of making mistakes, we took advantage of mistakes," Hawks first-year coach Jay Barnes said. "We were able to capitalize on some mistakes that went in our favor and everything rolled into place from there."
The Hawks (6-8) tallied eight hits in the victory and were aggressive on the base paths, as Skyline stole seven bases. Skyline scored at least one run in every inning but the third.
Jennings settled in after allowing a run in the top of the first inning, and even responded nicely following a 40-minute lightning delay in the bottom of the third inning. He pitched 5 2/3 innings while allowing three earned runs on five hits and four walks. Jennings struck out six batters.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and let the defense work. I struggled a little bit there for a while," Jennings said.
Central rallied for a run with two outs in the first inning, as Cody Sager worked a walk and came around to score on a double to left-center by senior Hayden Bauserman (2-for-3) to give the Falcons a 1-0 lead.
Skyline responded with two runs in the bottom of the first with its own two-out spurt. Hunter Partlowe (2-for-3, three runs, three stolen bases) started the rally with a two-out single and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch from Central starter Corey Sibert. Junior Tyler Johnson then plated Partlowe with an RBI single.
A Falcons error and a walk by Jennings loaded the bases, and Robbie Belanger's infield single scored another run to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
Skyline added another run on an RBI groundout by Robert Pressley in the second, but Central countered with two runs in the top of the fourth to tie the game.
Bauserman and Sam Cornman led off the fourth with singles, and Cody Polk ripped a double to the left-center field gap to score both runners. But Jennings and the Hawks minimized the damage, as Polk was caught trying to steal third for the inning's first out, and Jennings later picked off another Central runner for the inning's third out.
"I don't know if [Jennings] wasn't loose when we started or not, but he got loose in the second and his performance got better," Barnes said. "We had the delay and I thought he came out of the delay pretty well."
The Hawks took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth, as Skyline sent four runs across the plate. The Hawks batted around in the inning but needed just one hit, as the Falcons committed an error and walked four batters in the frame. Jennings had an RBI sacrifice fly in the inning, and Jerrius Baltimore sent another run across the plate when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
Skyline added two more runs in the fifth inning on a pair of Central errors to take a 9-3 lead.
"We got away with it at Madison [last Friday], we made five errors but we just made it inopportune tonight, which is not good," Falcons coach Donn Foltz said. "We've worked on defense more than normal, so I don't know."
The Hawks scored two more runs in the sixth before Central scored three in the top of the seventh off Skyline reliever Tyler Ritenour, who was hurt by two errors in the frame.
Sibert, who missed last season after tearing his ACL and has slowly been working into a more significant role on the mound for Central, went 3-plus innings in his first start of the season on Monday and allowed six runs (three earned) on four hits and five walks.
"I thought Sibert threw halfway decent. He didn't have stellar fielding behind him," Foltz said. "I got him some quality innings and he's a kid that's going to be good for us in the future."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org