By Tommy Keeler Jr.
FRONT ROYAL -- Winchester Post 21's baseball team had its back against the wall on Thursday. Post 21 had a short turnaround after losing a heartbreaking extra-inning game on Wednesday night.
On Thursday, Winchester hung tough for most of its must-win game against Ashburn Post 2001, before falling 6-0 in the District 16 American Legion tournament at Bing Crosby Stadium.
The loss ended a strong season for Post 21, which was the top seed in the tournament.
"We knew that we had to come out here and win," Winchester's Colin Benner said. "And we knew if we didn't come out and win this game we were going home, and unfortunately it didn't go our way."
Winchester lost 7-6 to Post 290 Stafford Nationals on Wednesday night in 12 innings, in a game that didn't end until after 11:30 p.m., Post 21 then had to be back in Front Royal early for the 10 a.m. game against Ashburn. The turnaround may have affected Winchester's bats on Thursday. Winchester had only three hits against Ashburn's Zach Newall.
"Our approach at the plate wasn't there tonight," Winchester coach Kyle Smallwood said. "We didn't swing at good pitches. We didn't hit many balls hard. A lot of weak infield hits and a lot of popups. We didn't get it done tonight."
Newall, who will play at William and Mary next year, gave up three hits in the first four innings, but allowed only three base runners over the last five innings.
"He's a college level pitcher that can keep hitters off balance," Ashburn manager Bill Mason said. "He's always throwing pitches for strikes. I couldn't be prouder of his performance today."
Mason said the key for Newall was his ability to locate his pitches against Winchester.
Benner, a rising senor at Millbrook, was just as solid for the first six innings. Benner allowed only four hits and struck out four in the first six innings.
In the top of the seventh, Will Roukus and Cody Shook had back-to-back singles. With one out, Caleb Barnes' two-run double gave Ashburn a 2-0 edge.
"I missed a few locations, left it over the heart of the plate," Benner said. "You got to give that team a little bit of credit, they can hit a little bit. They have a few kids that are definitely some collegiate players. "
Ashburn added two more in the top of the eighth. Back-to-back singles by Mitch Bauman and Roukus started things off. Shook followed with an RBI single for a 3-0 lead. Nate Davis stretched the lead to 4-0 with an RBI single later in the inning.
Ashburn finished with 12 hits in the game.
"It's about time, because the last five games we'd be lucky to hit the ball out of the infield," Mason said of his team's offense. "They came alive at the right time."
Roukus led Ashburn with three hits. Ashburn lost to Stafford 9-3 later in the day, sending Stafford to next week's state tournament.
Jacob Carney, Taylor Loudan and Nick Goode had Winchester's hits.
It was a tough way for Winchester's solid season to come to an end.
"It's little disappointing because we expected to be at least in the championship, but that's how baseball works," Smallwood said. "Sometimes the best team, we still feel like we're the best team out here, and sometimes the best team doesn't win. That's why you play the tournament."
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com