Rebels open VBL season with win over Tom Sox

NEW MARKET – The New Market Rebels’ bats were hot early in Thursday’s season-opening Valley Baseball League win over Charlottesville at Rebel Park.

Although the Rebels tallied just one hit over the final five innings, New Market erupted for nine hits in the first three and rode a solid combined effort on the mound to a 4-2 win, spoiling Charlottesville’s VBL debut.

“Kind of a consistent approach,” Rebels first-year manager George Schaefer said. “I felt like our guys, even despite a lack of success at the plate late in the game, still had quality ABs. And obviously we got two quality relief outings out of J.D. Waite and Justin Robarger.”

New Market, which finished dead last in the Valley League standing a season ago, struck quickly against Tom Sox starter Matthew Quarles.

The Rebels took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning as Kevin Woodall delivered a broken-bat RBI single to left field that plated Nate Blanchard, who led off the inning with a walk. New Market followed by adding three more runs in the third inning to chase Quarles from the mound after just 2 2/3 innings.

Woodall, Storm Edwards and Levi Wright opened the bottom of the third inning with three straight singles, with Wright’s looping liner down the right-field line plating Woodall for a 2-0 lead. Brian Lau drove in another run with an RBI groundout and No. 9 hitter P.J. DeMeo capped New Market’s offensive spurt with an RBI single on a line drive to center.

Blanchard, Woodall, Edwards and DeMeo each had two hits apiece for the Rebels, who had 10 hits total.

“Just the approach at the plate,” Schaefer said of New Markets’ early offensive success on Thursday. “[Assistant coaches] Nick Chinners and J.J. Reilly have been working with these guys. They come from good programs, the players do, it’s just a matter of wanting to work on a daily basis. These guys want to hit early. They want to hit after the games and I think it’s going to show on the field continually throughout the summer.”

New Market’s four-run lead was enough for the Rebels pitching staff, which limited the Tom Sox to four hits. Starter Alex Britt, a junior right-hander from UNC-Pembroke, pitched the first four innings for New Market, allowing an unearned run in the fourth after Brett Johnson led off the inning by reaching on a three-base error before scoring on Cole Murphy’s RBI groundout.

Waite went three innings on the mound for the Rebels and allowed one unearned run in the seventh as Brett Pope, who reached on an error earlier in the inning, scored on a wild pitch.

Charlottesville threatened to further chip into New Market’s lead in the top of the eighth inning, as Rebels reliever Ryan Kelly walked three straight batters to load the bases with one out. But Robarge came in and induced a fly out to center, and Kyle Davis was thrown out at home on a relay throw from the first baseman Woodall.

Tom Sox manager Mike Goldberg, making his head coaching debut, shared some words with the home plate umpire on his way to the dugout after the close play at the plate.

“First game as a head coach, certainly you’re going to think about do we send him there?” Goldberg said. “I thought he was in there but we’ve got one of our better hitters [Pope] coming up after that so – it happens.”

Tom Sox reliever Joshua Sharik – a junior right-hander from Rider University – kept the Rebels in check after coming on with two outs in the third inning. In his 5 1/3 innings of work, Sharik allowed only two hits and a hit batter while striking out five.

“He’s just funky, man,” Goldberg said. “He’s just a goofy guy. Nothing seems to faze him. He did a heckuva job for us tonight. I think he’s going to be a guy we rely on a lot just from that performance.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com