Staunton gets timely hits to pull out win

FRONT ROYAL — Front Royal and Staunton both had solid pitching performances on Monday night, but it was the Braves who had a few more timely hits.

The Braves used a three-run third inning to pull out a 4-3 Valley League Baseball victory over the Cardinals.

“Both teams had great starting pitching and that’s the foundation for a great baseball game and that’s what it was,” Staunton manager George Laase said. “The fans got their money’s worth.”

Front Royal starter Indalecio Romo, who was named the Valley League Player of the Week on Monday, went 5 1/3 innings striking out six and allowing four hits.

Three of the hits came in the top of the third. Staunton’s Kam Gellinger led off with a triple to right field on a play where Front Royal’s Bobby Lang collided with the wall trying to make the catch.

One out later, Gellinger scored on a fielder’s choice, as he beat the throw home. Ron Crile singled and Brad Jarreau drew a walk. With the bases loaded, an Austin Edens two-run single gave the Braves 3-0 edge.

“We try to stay aggressive and never fall behind in the pitch count,” Laase said. “In most of the at-bats, we were ahead in the count or we were even.”

The Cardinals got a run back in the bottom of the third. Front Royal’s Colby Dishmond doubled with one out, and Sherando grad Tre Porter (Shepherd University) followed with an RBI double off Staunton starter Walt Borkovich.

The Cardinals added a run in the bottom of the fourth. With one out, Front Royal’s Chase Lunceford was hit by a pitch and Aaron Stubblefield drew a walk. They attempted a double steal, but Stubblefield was thrown out at second.

Greg Lambert followed with a single to cut the lead to 3-2.

The Braves stretched their lead back to two runs in the top of the sixth. Edens had a one-out double. Front Royal reliever Patrick Coffin entered the game and two batters later was called for a balk scoring Edens.

Front Royal manager Brad Neffendorf said he was very happy with how Romo battled after the third and for all three pitchers that he used.

“He gave us a chance to win. The whole staff did,” Neffendorf said. “That’s what you ask of them every night. He gave us a great shot, just like their guy did. Pitching on both sides did what they’re supposed to do tonight.”

Borkovich (Michigan State) went six solid innings, allowing just four hits and striking out two.

The Cardinals added a run in the bottom of the eighth. Drew Small had a one-out double. One out later, a Wardy Polanco RBI single cut the lead to 4-3. Front Royal’s Chase Lunceford was hit by a pitch from Staunton reliever Aaron Hooven. Staunton then brought in reliever Blake Ream to finish off the eighth and close out the ninth.

“Blake Ream was a starter for us last year. This year he’s embracing the relief role and for him to come in and shut the door — it gives us two valuable options at the end,” Laase said.

The Cardinals (9-6) had opportunities throughout the game to score more runs. They stranded six, and were caught stealing to end the sixth.

Staunton was led by Edens with two hits. The Braves (12-2) have the best record in the league, and Laase was pleased with the victory.

“Front Royal is one of the best teams in the league, not just in the Northern Division, in the league,” Laase said. “Any time you get a win over a quality team like Front Royal it’s really going to help us going forward.”

The Cardinals were led at the plate by Lambert with two hits. Neffendorf said that he’s still happy with where the team is right now.

“We’re in 8-3 in our last 11 games,” Neffendorf said. “We got some new guys in here. … We got guys that haven’t seen enough yet to kind of put it together. I think we’ll be just fine. I want to play our best ball from the beginning of July on — and we’ve got a shot.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com