Hawks grind out rocky win over Manassas Park

FRONT ROYAL – There’s the old adage that a win is a win, and Skyline’s baseball team will certainly take Monday night’s victory over visiting Manassas Park at Bing Crosby Stadium.

The Hawks weren’t flawless – they mustered just four hits and failed to fully take advantage of 10 walks at the plate while committing three errors (and a few mental lapses) in the field – but they did get a timely grand slam from junior Brett Ritter and a solid combined pitching effort in the 6-3 Conference 28 victory.

It was Skyline’s third straight win over conference opponents and the fifth victory in the last six games.

“We’re gonna have to play better in other games,” Hawks coach Jay Barnes said. “We didn’t play very well tonight. We left nine on base I think. We’ve gotta do better driving runs in. I think we gutted through this one. I think we made some mistakes but we overcame them and scored some runs to stay ahead, but definitely gonna have to play better in the future.”

Skyline (6-5, 3-3 Conference 28) put up all the runs it would need in the bottom of the first inning after nearly squandering a bases-loaded opportunity. Manassas Park (3-9, 1-4) starting pitcher Andrew Park, who struggled with his command from the beginning, dealt walks to three of the first four batters he faced to load the bases with one out.

Park got Ryan Abel to strike out looking for the inning’s second out, and initially was ruled to have struck out Ritter before a meeting between umpires determined Ritter had tipped the swinging strike. The Skyline junior ripped the next pitch into the netting above the fence in left field for a grand slam, Ritter’s first home run of his career, to give the Hawks a 4-0 lead.

“I got in my two-strike stance, got a strike and hit it,” said Ritter, who didn’t know the ball had cleared the fence as he sprinted into second base.

“I was going for a double,” he added.

Skyline struggled at the plate after Quentin Diggs’ single later in the first, as the Hawks left five runners on in the first three innings before adding a run in the fourth when Gavin Kandrick walked, stole two bases and scored on a passed ball.

Though Park dealt nine walks in his four innings of work, the Cougars’ left-hander struck out seven through the first three innings and was praised by Manassas Park coach James Stubler after the game for his competitiveness. Skyline struck out looking five times, including three in a row to end the third while stranding a runner at second base.

“Not really good at-bats,” Barnes said, “and I think (Park’s) wildness is wildly effective because he’ll lull you to sleep after he walks one or two and then you take strike one, strike two and the next thing you know you’re down. Just wildly effective. I think we’ve gotta be a little more aggressive with somebody like that.”

The Cougars, held hitless through the first three innings, broke through for a run in the top of the fourth inning off Skyline reliever Anthony Perdue. Jake Togni, who reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced to third on an error and a Kyle Petak single before scoring on a delayed double steal with two outs as Petak drew the Hawks’ attention by getting in a rundown between first and second.

Robbie Ratchford added a run for Manassas Park in the fifth with a sacrifice fly before the Cougars purposely created another rundown on a delayed double steal that led to run to cut the Hawks’ lead to 5-3.

Neither delayed steal from Manassas Park drew a throw to the plate.

“They were first and third situations and we had plays on for if the runner stole, but we didn’t execute the play like we should have,” Barnes said. “In that situation knowing the situation is the biggest thing, and knowing if we want to keep the run from scoring or just get the out.”

Skyline added an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth when Perdue doubled to left and scored on an error. Matthew Hartzell also doubled in the sixth inning for the Hawks’ fourth and final hit.

Three Skyline pitchers combined to limit the Cougars to just three hits in the win. Perdue, who came on in the second inning after starter Dillon Sisk left with an injury, threw four innings and allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits, a walk, two hit batters and four strikeouts. Joe Pingley pitched the final two innings and allowed a hit while striking out the side in the top of the seventh.

“I thought the relievers did a great job,” Barnes said. “Anthony did a great job coming in and controlling the situation. He got in a couple tight spots there where we didn’t make some plays but other than that he did a good job.”

After tossing a hitless first inning, Sisk’s second pitch of the second inning sailed well wide of the strike zone and he immediately began grabbing his left elbow in obvious pain.

“It’s been labeled a sprain right now and we’ll reevaluate in a couple days,” Barnes said.

Skyline returns to action tonight in a Northwestern District contest at Handley. That game will be held at 6 p.m. at Bodie Grim Field.

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