Hawks rout Judges to end five-game slide

FRONT ROYAL – Skyline’s home baseball game against John Handley was supposed to be postponed, but miscommunication resulted in both teams showing up at Bing Crosby Stadium on Friday evening. Luckily for the Hawks, they were able to get the field in a playable condition – they needed the playing time after repeated rainouts, and they needed the win that came along with it.

Skyline got the bats going early against the struggling Judges, while Hawks junior Anthony Perdue tossed five shutout innings in a 10-0 Northwestern District win that was shortened to five frames due to the mercy rule.

The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for Skyline, which began with a loss to Handley back on April 19.

“It was really important,” said Skyline junior catcher Gavin Kandrick, who was 2-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs. “We’ve been struggling a few games, coming out and getting a dub is great because it just gives us confidence and it pushes us more.”

Skyline quickly provided Perdue with plenty of run support, as the first four Hawks batters reached base safely and scored in the bottom of the first inning.

Luis Garcia led off the frame by working a five-pitch walk off Handley’s Jimmy Vitola, and he scored from first on Kandrick’s hit-and-run double to the gap in right-center. Aaron Tasker followed with an RBI single up the middle for a quick 2-0 lead.

“We were just putting the ball in play solid, and that’s what we’ve been after,” said Hawks coach Jay Barnes, whose team had six hits – including three doubles – over four innings. “Maybe we can continue that and keep that going. That’d be great.”

Tasker later scored on a delayed double steal before Matthew Hartzell, who walked, crossed the plate on a wild pitch to give Skyline (7-10, 2-4 Northwestern) a 4-0 lead before the Judges (1-14, 1-6) limited further damage after Joe Pingley’s one-out double.

That lead was plenty for Perdue, who limited Handley to four hits, a walk and two hit batters while striking out five over his five innings of work.

“My arm just felt great,” Perdue said. “I’ve had arm issues in the past but tonight it just felt extremely well.

“(My command) was a lot better, but I think I could’ve done better, personally. But we got the win.”

Perdue had just one clean inning – a 1-2-3 top of the second – but was able to strand six runners. Garcia, the Hawks’ left fielder, helped his pitcher by throwing out a runner at home plate to end the top of the first inning, and Perdue started a 1-6-3 double play in the fourth that erased a leadoff single by freshman John Rosa (2-for-2).

The right-hander threw 80 pitches.

“He had a lot better control tonight than he’s had in his last couple outings,” Barnes said of Perdue. “I think he hit two and both of them were with the breaking ball, but I think he was able to control it a little better and that was a step in the right direction for him.”

Skyline extended its lead to 7-0 with three more runs in the second inning off Handley reliever Clay Curbon. Hawks senior Marcus Burke led off the inning with a looping single to right and Curbon, after getting back-to-back outs, dealt a walk and hit a batter to load the bases. Perdue helped his own cause with a two-run single to left before Brett Ritter worked a bases-loaded walk.

The Hawks took an 8-0 lead in the third inning on Kandrick’s second RBI double.

“We’re just focused on hitting balls in the gaps,” Kandrick said. “… We’ve been hitting the ball well. Hopefully it carries on to the next game.”

Skyline rallied for its final two runs with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Handley’s Jacob Torian was able to retire the first two batters of the frame before he hit three in a row, walked one and hit another.

Handley pitchers combined to walk six while hitting five batters.

Barnes said the Hawks, who wrap up the regular season with a home game against James Wood before beginning the Conference 28 tournament next Friday, looked much sharper in the rematch against Handley than they did when they became the Judges’ only victim so far this spring.

“We didn’t play very good baseball that night and I think maybe we took it for granted,” Barnes said. “They’re a lot better than their record shows. They’re a very much-improved team from years past and I think maybe … at that game instead of just playing baseball we let our own brains get in the way. Tonight we just played baseball and it turned out good.”

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