Front Royal has all the answers in victory

By Brad Fauber

FRONT ROYAL — Front Royal seemed to have an answer for just about everything against visiting Harrisonburg on Wednesday at Bing Crosby Stadium.

The Cardinals watched Harrisonburg take the lead on three different occasions, but Front Royal responded all three times. That ability to counter, and a solid combined pitching effort from lefty starter Brian Barry and reliever Evan Bickett, sent the Cardinals to a 5-4 Valley League victory.

“I think both teams in certain areas today, at points in the game, executed very well,” Cardinals coach Brad Neffendorf said. “… Late in the game we were able to capitalize, execute, and Bickett came in and held them out.”

Harrisonburg (7-6) took its first lead in the third inning, as the Turks scored a run off a Cardinals error. Barry, who had went unscathed through the first two innings, allowed a leadoff single to Luke Czajkowski, who was eventually erased on a fielder’s choice on a grounder by Steven McLean.

McLean proceeded to steal second base, and Barry’s wild throw on the pickoff throw to first allowed McLean to come all the way around to score.

Front Royal (11-4) came right back with a run in the bottom of the third. Chris Stevens led off with a walk, and singles by Nick Perez and Nick Sinay (2-for-4, double) loaded the bases with one out. Stevens came in to score on an RBI groundout by Tyler Tichenor.

“Every time they scored we answered right back. That’s all you can ask for,” said Cardinals third baseman Hunter Newman. “We just did a real good job of that tonight.”

The Turks sent two more runs across in the top of the fourth inning. A string of three straight one-out hits was concluded with an RBI single by Brandon Gold, and an RBI groundout by Eric Kalbfleisch gave Harrisonburg a 3-1 lead.

“I was making my pitches, they were hitting good pitches and sending it out there,” said Barry, who went 6 1/3 innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits, two walks and eight strikeouts. “… Our offense came right back and got it.

“It’s always nice to knowing that your offense has got your back. It takes a lot of pressure off of you, but you’ve also got to keep your head in the game and shut it down.”

Front Royal, which finished with 11 hits in the victory, tied the game back up at 3-3 in the bottom of the fourth inning with a pair of runs against Harrisonburg starting pitcher James Ziemba.

Shell McCain and Zarley Zalewski hit back-to-back one-out singles for the Cardinals, and Stevens drove both of them home on a two-RBI double off the netting in left-center field.

The Turks reclaimed the lead one final time in the fifth inning, as Matt Rose lifted a soft line drive single that scored Thomas Spitz, who reached on a one-out double.

“Barry threw really well. He made some really good pitches. They had some good two-out hits against him, some good two-strike hits, but he threw really well,” Neffendorf said of the left-hander from Georgetown College who picked up his first Valley League win on Wednesday.

The Cardinals took their first and only lead in the bottom of the fifth inning with two more runs off Ziemba. Sinay led off the inning with a double, and Newman followed with a double down the right field line with two outs to score Sinay and tie the game at 4-4.

“I thought I got walked but I’m glad I didn’t. It was a lot of fastballs and he was just working away, so I was just trying to stay on it for a long time and work it that way,” said Newman, who was 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI.

Zalewski, a first baseman from Kent State University who arrived in Front Royal less than a week ago after suffering a thumb injury during the regional round of the NCAA tournament, gave the Cardinals the lead with an RBI single to right off Turks reliever Brett Morgan. Zalewski was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

Barry got in a jam in the top of the seventh, and was pulled in favor of Bickett with one out and runners at second and third in the inning. Bickett, a right-handed submarine pitcher from Indiana University Southeast, induced a fly-out to right field by Thomas Smith, and Cardinals right fielder McCain threw out Cris Perez at the plate as he tried to tag from third to end the inning.

Bickett didn’t allow a hit in 2 2/3 innings and struck out two.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com