Falcons’ Sager goes distance to beat Wildcats

FRONT ROYAL — In a pitchers’ duel, Central’s Cody Sager was just a notch better than Warren County reliever Stephen Johnson on Friday night as the Falcons picked up their third victory of the season at Bing Crosby Stadium.

Sager, an All-Conference 28 pitcher-outfielder, scattered five hits to Warren’s batters, struck out 12 and went the distance for the Falcons (2-2, 3-4) in a 6-5 Bull Run District/conference baseball contest. The Wildcats are 3-3 in both district and overall.

“That’s the Cody I know,” said Central coach Donn Foltz. “He had a couple of tough starts there, but he was really throwing well tonight. He got out there getting ahead of the hitters — which is the name of the game — and he was putting his pitches where they needed to be.”

Sager’s outing outdid ‘Cats reliever Johnson, who pitched six innings after starter Mike Burrola was knocked out in the first inning.

“I thought I did all right,” said Johnson. “I’m not a power pitcher, so I rely on hitting my spots and attacking hitters. That was what I was trying to do tonight.”

The relief pitcher entered the top of the second. Central had gone ahead 3-1 on the scoreboard, and, with the Falcons’ Luis DelValle on first, Johnson had two Wildcats ground out to shortstop Zach Hamman. A third flied out to end the inning.

Central led by two runs, but Johnson had gotten Warren County out of a jam.

Sager had struck out six ‘Cats in a row when Warren’s ninth hitter, Cameron Ford, ripped a double into right field in the bottom of the third. After Sager walked leadoff hitter Joseph Rutherford to put two baserunners on, brother Robert Rutherford slammed a single up the first-base line that Cory Sibert came just shy of stopping. That scored a run.

Third-hitter Eric Baker banged into a 6-4-3 double play, scoring Joseph Rutherford. Pinch-runner James Bussells stole second, but Sager retired the next hitter on strikes to preserve the 3-3 tie.

Central got on the board again in the top of the sixth to go ahead for good. Sager helped his cause with a base hit over the shortstop’s grasp. Sibert got on base after an error on the first baseman. After both runners moved up a base on Hamman’s sacrifice, Tristan Rau bunted to first to score Sager and move Sibert to third. He came home on a wild pitch. DelValle singled into right, scoring Rau for the 6-3 advantage.

“I thought one of the things we did well was bunt the ball,” said Foltz.

Warren County coach Vernon Mathews was less pleased.

“This is a good series and we respect Central a lot. Cody Sager was on target tonight, but we made too many errors. We made six and that’s the worst we’ve played for a while. That’s embarrassing,” Mathews said.

Warren County came back to all but tie Central. In the home half of the sixth, Baker singled and then Johnson walked to put runners on first and second. Sager accomplished two strikeouts, but Blake Cockrell got on base after an error at first. That brought in two runs.

Ahead 6-5, Sager set down Ford and the two Rutherfords to finish with the win. Burrola took the loss.

“He’s one of the guys we start. He had a rough outing tonight,” said Mathews.

With just 10 hits, nobody on either team had more than one hit. Sager and Sibert and Rau scored two runs apiece for the Falcons. Rau also drove in three runs.

For Warren County, Baker and Cockrell drove in a pair of runs apiece.