Cardinals’ offense comes to life in win over Express

Front Royal's Michael Hartnagel, left, and Strasburg's catcher Jeffrey Scott both look to the umpire for the call after Hartnagel's slide into home plate during the fourth inning of last night's game at First Bank Park. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Front Royal has struggled offensively at times this season, but Tuesday night was not one of those times.

The Cardinals took command early en route to a 10-3 Valley Baseball League victory over Strasburg at First Bank Park.

“It felt good because we do struggle sometimes at the plate, putting runs on the board,” Front Royal’s Zac Wiley said. “I think it gives a little reassurance to our pitching staff that we can do it. So we just got to back it up again. We just got to keep doing it.”

Front Royal (15-15) entered Tuesday’s contest with a .222 team batting average, and was averaging just four runs a game. The Cardinals had 10 hits and 10 runs in the first four innings against Strasburg.

The Cardinals scored eight runs in a 9-8 loss to Covington on Monday, and Front Royal manager Victor Gomez said he hopes the trend continues.

Front Royal's Kevin Williams Jr., right, taps helmets with catcher Marty Napleton, left, after Williams hit a three-run homer during second inning action Tuesday night at First Bank Park in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I think offensively we’re starting to put it together. It’s only two games, so I want to see it kind of keep going,” Gomez said. “The guys seem to be making some better adjustments and definitely not checking out after they were maybe falling behind. They’re battling through at-bats, and that’s the type of stuff I want to see.”

The Cardinals took the lead in the top of the first. Front Royal’s Michael Hartnagel singled to start the game off against Strasburg starting pitcher Tyler Johnson. With two outs, Wiley’s RBI double gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Front Royal’s Clay Hunt followed with an RBI single for a 2-0 lead.

The Cardinals added three more in the top of the second. With one out, Marty Napleton drew a walk and Sebastian Diaz followed with a single. One out later, Kevin Williams Jr. hit a three-run homer to extend the lead to 5-0.

“We already had a little bit of a lead, but whenever that happens like that it changes the face of the game,” Gomez said of the homer. “The momentum was on our side there pretty well.”

Front Royal shortstop Bernabe Camargo turns a double play as Strasburg's Dylan Ingram prepares to slide into second base during second inning action Tuesday night at First Bank Park. Rich Cooley/Daily

In the top of the fourth the Cardinals added to the lead. Tyler Keiser doubled to start the inning. An RBI single by Diaz stretched the lead to 6-0.

Hartnagel reached on a single and a two-run double by Bernabe Camargo gave the Cardinals an 8-0 edge. Wiley followed with a two-run homer for a 10-0 lead in the fourth.

“He started me off with a curveball away and then came back with a fastball and got down 0-2. I’ve been seeing a lot of curveballs lately, and I knew when I got my fastball I had to jump on it,” Wiley said. “So when he threw it I just put a good swing on it and it went.”

Strasburg scored a run in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Strasburg’s Donovan May, who had three hits in the game, doubled and Drew Avans reached on an error. A sacrifice fly RBI by Tommy Richter cut the lead to 10-1. The Express eventually loaded the bases, but stranded all three.

The Express (21-9) added a run in both the eighth and ninth innings. They finished the game with more hits than Front Royal, but left 14 runners on base.

Front Royal's Zac Wiley, right, connects helmets with teammate Bernabe Camargo after Wiley's two-run homer on July 12 at First Bank Park. Wiley and the Cardinals play Winchester today in the playoffs. Rich Cooley/Daily file

“We left a lot of guys on base again,” Strasburg manager Butch Barnes said. “We’ve had a tendency to do that every once in a while, because you know what? You’re not going to hit every night. Although, we did get 11 hits – just not when we needed them.”

Strasburg relief pitchers Colin Costello, Garrett Richards and Jared Silva didn’t allow a hit in five innings of work.

“They did great, kept us in the ballgame,” Barnes said of the bullpen. “I’ll be honest, we just struggled scoring tonight.”

Front Royal also used four pitchers – Frank Rubio, Jared Drayton, Hunter Bowling and Diaz – and Gomez said he was very happy with how they performed.

Gomez said his team just needs to keep playing hard for the remainder of the season.

Front Royal second baseman Michael Hartnagel puts a late tag on Strasburg's Haiden Lamb on a second base steal during first inning action Tuesday night at First Bank Park in Strasburg. Lamb was safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I think we’re going to have 11 ballgames left. The way our division is it’s a real tight division and all the teams are battling,” Gomez said. “We’re going to have to battle our butts off for 11 more ballgames and just take one at a time. If we do that, we keep playing hard one game at a time, we should have a decent result at the end.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com

Front Royal's Bernabe Camargo waits on a throw to force out Strasburg's Donovan May at second base during fourth inning action last night at First Bank Park. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg Express manager Butch Barnes argues with an umpire during Tuesday night's game against Front Royal at First Bank Park. Rich Cooley/Daily