Central’s bats keep pressure on Skyline in victory

FRONT ROYAL – Central’s baseball team made Skyline’s defense work Monday night, and the Hawks’ gloves couldn’t keep pace.

Skyline committed six errors to amplify the effect of the Falcons’ nine hits, while Central sophomore Jared Rice tossed six strong innings to send the Falcons to an 11-4 non-conference victory on the road at Bing Crosby Stadium.

The Falcons’ ability to make consistent contact – they struck out just three times in 39 plate appearances – was a welcomed sight for head coach Donn Foltz.

“We haven’t had one of those in a while, it doesn’t feel like,” Foltz said. “We put the bat on the ball probably better than we have in a while, so very happy. Things are paying off.”

Central (2-1) gave Rice all the run support he would need in the game’s first two innings, with a little help from some shaky Skyline (1-2) defense. The Falcons scored two runs in the top of the first inning off Hawks starter Ryan Abel on a two-out single by sophomore Luke Estep (2-for-4, two RBIs, run scored), then added four more in the second behind a pair of hits and three Skyline errors.

The bottom of the Falcons’ batting order got things rolling in the second inning as Gus Wightman and Johnathan Baker (1-for-2, walk, two runs) got on with back-to-back singles, and an error on Tristan Rau’s bunt attempt loaded the bases for Rice. With the infield in, Rice hit a groundball to shortstop and the ball was thrown wide of home plate, allowing two runs to score.

Another error on Corey Sibert’s grounder plated two more Central runs to put Skyline in a 6-0 hole.

Hawks coach Jay Barnes said Monday’s defensive woes were a continuation of the fielding struggles his team experienced in a loss to Brentsville last Friday.

“(Central) played well. They put the ball in play, they made the routine plays and that’s the main thing we didn’t do,” Barnes said. “We didn’t make routine plays. We kicked it around, gave them opportunities to score.”

Skyline cut the Falcons’ lead in half with three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Brett Ritter and Quentin Diggs led off the inning with singles, and Rice plunked Marcus Burke to load the bases with one out. Hawks leadoff man Trenton Little delivered a two-run single up the middle, and Gavin Kandrick (2-for-4, RBI) followed with an RBI single to left to pull the Hawks within 6-3.

Rice settled in after that, as he allowed just three hits over his final four innings of work. The sophomore right-hander allowed eight hits and didn’t walk a batter while striking out nine before turning the ball over to Baker to start the seventh inning.

“I’d liked to have seen him get a complete (game) but it was getting a little chilly and he was getting up in pitch count,” Foltz said of Rice, who improved to 2-0.

“His breaking ball looked pretty good at times. And you know he had a little velo there at the end of the game. Just throwing strikes, that’s all you gotta do. I mean it’s not just that simple but you throw strikes, get fairly good defense, everything pretty much takes care of itself.”

Central batted around in the fourth inning while adding four more runs to its lead. Three of those runs came via two more Skyline errors before senior catcher Jordon Hosaflook put the Falcons up 10-3 with an RBI single.

A sacrifice fly by Hank Hoover scored Rau (2-for-3, three runs scored) in the fifth to put Central up 11-3.

“They just kept it simple, kept it short. That’s all we’ve been working on – keep it simple, keep it short, don’t over-stride, don’t look at too many pretty ones right down the middle,” Foltz said of Central’s approach at the plate.

“We’re young and we’re getting older, that’s what I like,” he added.

Hawks pinch-hitter Aaron Tasker drove in the game’s final run with a two-out RBI single off Baker in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Skyline, which tallied nine hits in the loss, stranded nine baserunners and left two men on base in four different innings.

“I think I’ve got some guys that are pressing, trying too hard, and I’ve got a few guys that are maybe a little lax in their approach,” Barnes said. “Striking out too much, we’re not putting the ball in play enough. And (Central) proved it tonight, you put the ball in play firm, make people make mistakes, good things can happen. We’re just not doing that. We’re not putting people in pressure situations.”

Abel pitched three-plus innings and allowed eight runs (two earned) on four hits, two walks, a hit batter and two strikeouts. Austin Scott pitched three innings of relief and allowed three unearned runs on five hits and a strikeout, while Colin Rankin pitched a hitless seventh inning.

Both teams return to action today as Central travels to Stonewall Jackson while Skyline travels to William Monroe for a Conference 28 matchup.

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