By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Front Royal Post 53 came out on the losing end of a seesaw game against visiting Ashburn Post 2001 in American Legion baseball action on Tuesday night at Bing Crosby Stadium.
Post 53 overcame an early six-run deficit and held a two-run lead heading into the top of the ninth inning before Ashburn rallied for four runs en route to a 12-10 victory.
"We didn't pitch in the last inning," Post 53 coach Rick Almarode said. "And we give up four unearned runs in the third inning. That cost us. The last inning was not really too bad. We got some pitches up and they hit the ball."
Front Royal (3-4) held a 10-8 lead going into the top of the ninth inning, but Post 2001 came through with four runs with two outs to reclaim the lead.
Post 53 reliever Austin King caught a bad break as Ashburn's Ryan Bowers reached safely on a swinging strikeout following a wild pitch, negating what would've been the second out of the top of the ninth inning. King then walked Jake Pratt before getting No. 9 hitter Nathan Davis to fly out to shallow left field.
Ashburn's Zack Newell (6-for-6), a William and Mary commit, singled to load the bases and Kyle Wright delivered a two-run single to center field to tie the game at 10-all. Michael Lord followed two batters later with another two-run single to give Post 2001 the lead before Caleb Burns was tagged out trying to advance to third to end the inning.
"We'd gotten some pretty big hits most of the night, but they were to everybody else," Ashburn coach Bill Mason said. "Basically the kids got together by themselves and said we can either win this game or play dead, roll over and go home. Each one took a different approach at the plate and each one did their own role."
Front Royal had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning, as Eric Baker walked, Hunter Partlowe singled and Patrick McGrath executed a sacrifice bunt to put two runners in scoring position with one out. But Ashburn reliever Charlie Fletcher got Jontae Rollins and Jordan Rau to each fly out to right field to end the game.
Ashburn jumped out to an early lead on Tuesday as Post 53 starting pitcher John Reith and his defense struggled. A two-run single by Newell in the top of the second gave Ashburn a 2-0 lead, and a Front Royal error in the third led to four unearned runs and a 6-0 lead for Post 2001.
But Post 53 responded by scoring 10 combined runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings after being shut down by Ashburn starter Caleb Barnes through the first three innings.
"We came out and I think we were a little flat due to the heat. Today was a little hotter than usual and we just weren't used to it," said Post 53's Cody Sager, who was 3-for-5 with two RBIs. "When the fourth inning came around we finally came alive and we started realizing that we can hit this. This is us, we can hit it."
Sager delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the fourth off Barnes and later scored on a balk to cut the deficit to 6-2. McGrath followed three batters later with an RBI single and came all the way around to score on two throwing errors on the play.
Post 53 took the lead in the fifth inning with three more runs off Ashburn reliever Cody Shook. Jordan Rau reached on an error to lead off the inning and scored on a passed ball, and Sager tallied another RBI single to tie the game at 6-all. Sterling Jennings gave Post 53 the lead when he stole home on a delayed double steal.
"I'll take these kids anywhere. I will take them and play anybody," Almarode said. "... I feel bad for the kids because they battled back. I'm proud of each and every one of them."
Front Royal added to its lead with three more runs in the sixth, as Robert Presley, Neil Dutton and Jennings each tallied an RBI in the frame.
Ashburn cut the lead to 10-8 with two runs in the top of the eighth inning off Dutton, as Barnes and Lord notched RBIs.
Dutton pitched effectively in relief for Front Royal, as he allowed two earned runs on five hits and two walks while striking out one in 5 1/3 innings.
"He got himself in a lot of holes and he had to come back. He had to throw a lot of pitches that way," Almarode said of Dutton. "He did very well. I was very happy with him."
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com