Cardinals off to strong start in VBL

FRONT ROYAL — The Front Royal Cardinals have good reason for high expectations this season.

The Cardinals fell just short of making the Valley Baseball League Championship series last year, losing to Strasburg in the North Division finals. This year the Cardinals have a lot of depth and talent in both pitching and hitting. They are off to a good start with a 5-3 record and just a half game behind first-place Purcellville in the North Division.

First-year Front Royal manager Brian Daly said he’s been very impressed with his team, even though they are still missing seven starters. He said they have seven guys who are still playing for their college teams. He said he’s had to play guys out of position, but the team hasn’t missed a beat.

“It’s just been a team effort all the way around,” Daly said Friday night after an extra-inning win over Strasburg. “We got a great group of guys. They’ve done nothing but jell since day 1. A new guy comes in they become a family in a short amount of time. And we got guys stepping up in less than ideal situations because we’re a little short-manned right now and we’re still finding a way to get the job done. That’s very, very exciting.”

The Cardinals have many NCAA Division I players on the roster, including three from the Southeastern Conference and three from the Big Ten Conference.

So far the Cardinals have had a very strong offense. Front Royal is averaging almost seven runs per contest. The Cardinals are hitting .262 as a team this season.

“Night-in, night-out, with the exception of one game, we’ve scored in bunches,” Daly said. “It’s not just one big inning. We seem to be able to do it multiple times throughout the game and that’s big.”

Outfielder Dominic Canzone (Ohio State University) leads the way offensively for the Cardinals, batting .387 (12-for-31) with two triples, one double, one home run, nine runs scored and six RBIs. Catcher Jared McDonald is batting .364 (8-for-22) with two doubles, four runs scored and five RBIs.

The starting pitching has also been solid for the Cardinals.

Robbie Price (Tulane University) has started two games and is 1-0 on the season with a 2.70 ERA. Ryan Ruggles (University of Alabama Birmingham) has pitched 8.2 innings for the Cardinals with a 0.00 ERA and eight strikeouts.

Ted Andrews, a senior from Tulane University, pitched four innings in relief Friday night and picked up the win. Daly said he was happy to see Andrews have such a strong outing.

“He struggled his first couple outings,” Daly said of Andrews. “He’s been here early every day, made a few adjustments and I think everything finally clicked (Friday). So that was awesome to see.”

Daly said that even though they have been short-handed they also have plenty of depth. He said they’ve got guys who can play multiple positions, and he has rotated his bench players so that everyone has started some on offense.

Daly said that he’s excited to see what the team can do this season once he gets all his players to Front Royal.

“Once we get to full strength it’s going to be fun to see what this group can do,” Daly said. “It’s a special group. I’ve been doing this a while now, and I honestly haven’t had a better feeling going into the season than I do now about this group.”