Britt, Rebels sharp in road win over Cards
FRONT ROYAL – The New Market Rebels were sharp in all phases on Friday night.
The Rebels hit two home runs, played errorless defense in the field and, perhaps most importantly, got a shutdown performance from starting pitcher Alex Britt to pick up a 3-1 Valley Baseball League victory over Front Royal at Bing Crosby Stadium.
Britt, a junior right-hander from UNC-Pembroke, tossed six scoreless innings against the Cardinals to pick up his second win of the season.
“Momentum and energy is that day’s starting pitcher, and he was pretty good tonight,” Rebels manager George Schaefer said.
Britt, who lowered his ERA to 1.13 with his performance Friday night, allowed five hits and a walk while striking out seven batters. Five of those seven strikeouts ended with a slider, a pitch Britt said generally takes a back seat to his changeup.
“My slider was my best pitch tonight,” Britt said. “I was locating my fastball and then I was coming in with the slider, just throwing them off.”
Britt was quick to give credit for much of his success to an “outstanding” Rebels defense that turned two double plays in the victory, including a 4-6-3 double play started by second baseman Nate Blanchard that erased Front Royals’ leadoff single by Greg Lambert in the bottom of the fourth.
Britt worked around his only major jam in the fifth inning when he left the bases loaded. Front Royal (10-7) put two in scoring position with one out following a Bobby Lang single and a double by Colby Dishmond before striking out No. 9 batter Drew Small. After a walk that loaded the bases, Britt got Edgar Lebron, who began the game in the top five in the Valley League in batting average, to pop out behind the plate to end the inning.
“I kind of got a little tired,” Britt said. “I was getting tired and then I walked the one guy, which wasn’t a bad walk because I’d rather for the bases to be loaded. … My arm was dragging, left the ball up.”
New Market’s offense gave Britt all the run support he would need in the top of the first inning with a two-out rally against Cardinals starter Mario Morales.
Kevin Woodall started the rally with a double off the outfield net in right field and designated hitter Storm Edwards, the league’s batting leader entering Friday’s contest, followed with a two-run homer to left-center.
“First pitch was a high fastball. I thought he was going to try to get me with the slider since Woody hit one on the wall,” Edwards said. “He threw me a fastball, pretty good speed. Just put a barrel on it.
“It got us started, got us ahead early and thankfully everything else went our way,” he added.
Morales, who was making his first start of the season, settled in after that and retired 10 straight at one point before surrendering a solo home run to Brian Lau (2-for-4, double, homer) to lead off the seventh inning.
Morales, who consistently pounded the strike zone against the Rebels (10-9), pitched seven innings while allowing three earned runs on five hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts. The senior from Campbellsville University threw 40 consecutive strikes between the third and seventh innings, and threw 81 of his 96 pitches for strikes.
Cardinals manager Brad Neffendorf, who serves as the pitching coach for Campbellsville University, said Morales walked only three batters in 77 collegiate innings this past season, the best mark in the NAIA in the last 50 years.
“He did more than [enough] of what he needed to do to get us a win,” Neffendorf said of Morales’ outing on Friday. “In fact, he should’ve gotten a win tonight. Any pitcher should who throws like that.”
Front Royal’s lone run came in the bottom of the eighth inning off New Market reliever Andrew White, who surrendered a two-out single to Chase Lunceford that scored Tre Porter.
“We weren’t very competitive at the plate, and that’s what it comes down to,” Neffendorf said of a Cardinals team that left seven runners on base. ” … [If we] get the bat off the shoulder in a couple situations tonight, it’s a different ballgame.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org