Cardinals rally past Rebels with five-run seventh inning

FRONT ROYAL – New Market got an opportune start on the road against Front Royal Friday night but couldn’t build on it.

The Rebels sent three runs across the plate in the top of the first inning as Front Royal starter Stephen Xirinachs struggled with his control, but it was the Cardinals who left Bing Crosby Stadium with a victory after striking for five runs in the decisive seventh inning of a 6-4 win in Valley Baseball League action.

“It starts off with Stephen in the first inning there. He was wild but he was able to manage and give me a quality start,” Cardinals manager Victor Gomez said. “He was able to buckle down and go five, and that’s where we stayed in it. Our offense kind of took a little bit to get going but we made adjustments later in the game and in that inning we got some big hits.

“My team fights. They’re gonna keep fighting, so as long as they’re doing that we’ll be all right.”

That fight turned into an uphill climb for Front Royal (13-10) quickly in the first inning. New Market’s Luke Manzo, Daniel Kerwin and John Cable strung together three straight hits to load the bases with one out in the opening frame before three straight two-out walks issued by Xirinachs staked the Rebels a 3-0 lead.

The senior right-hander from the University of Massachusetts Lowell would settle in after that, as he didn’t allow a hit after the first inning. Xirinachs lasted five innings while allowing three earned runs on three hits, three walks, two hit batters and three strikeouts in the no-decision.

“Steve will walk his guys. He’s just a bulldog, a big competitor,” Gomez said. “He strikes guys out and walks guys, that’s his M.O. a little bit. But like I said, those moments where he’s gotta make a big pitch it seems like he usually does make it. He did a great job for us.”

Rebels (9-15) starting pitcher Davis Kirkpatrick pitched well enough to keep his team in the lead despite New Market’s struggles on offense – which mustered just one hit over the final eight innings – but the bullpen couldn’t hold a 4-1 lead in the seventh.

After Gomez stressed the importance of putting the ball in play and making the defense work, the Cardinals opened the seventh inning with a walk, a hit-and-run single by No. 9 hitter Michael Hartnagel and another walk to load the bases with no outs against Rebel reliever Matt Oset.

Zach Clark then hit a dribbler down the third-base line that he beat out for an RBI infield single, and a wild throw by Kerwin allowed another run to score to cut New Market’s lead to 4-3.

“When you pitch behind in the count and you get into predictable counts where you’ve gotta throw a fastball you’re gonna be in trouble,” Rebels manager Zac Cole said. “Add a couple walks in there. … We didn’t help ourselves with the ball we threw away at third base. In that situation you’ve gotta eat that ball and live to fight another day. You cannot give up another extra run right there by trying to make a play.”

Front Royal shortstop Bernie Camargo dealt the crushing blow to the Rebels when he hammered a 2-0 pitch from Oset over the fence in left for a three-run home run and a 6-4 Cardinals lead.

It was the second home run of the VBL season for Camargo, who is batting .333 this summer.

“He got a good pitch there in an advantage count,” Gomez said. “He’s got a very consistent swing. I think the first two times he hit two line drives to right field. In those moments where he gets the ball in the zone he’s not trying to do too much.”

Oset was tagged with the loss after surrendering five earned runs on four hits, two walks and two strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings.

Kirkpatrick was denied his first win of the summer despite allowing just one earned run on three hits, four walks and eight strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings.

“He’s been really good the last two times,” Cole said of the right-hander from East Carolina. “He pitched well enough to win and we just couldn’t hold it for him in the bullpen.

“His breaking ball was really good. His curveball was really good and he had some life on his fastball. You could see by the swings that their guys had, he had some life on that fastball tonight.”

Frank Rubio picked up the win in his first appearance with Front Royal. He tossed two innings while giving up one hit, a walk and an unearned run, which scored on a Cardinals error in the sixth inning. Rubio struck out three.

Mitch Stophel picked up his first save with a scoreless ninth inning.

Hartnagel (2-for-4, run scored) and Tyler Kaiser (2-for-4, RBI double) each had two hits for Front Royal.

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