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Posted July 8, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Royals snap five-game losing streak in rout

By Ben Brooks -- sports@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Mired in a season-long five-game losing streak, the Winchester Royals needed a spark Tuesday night.

They got an explosion.

The Royals erupted for 19 hits in a 13-3 Valley Baseball League victory over Waynesboro at Bridgeforth Field.

Aaron Dudley, Dave Fallon and Jordan Steranka keyed Winchester's offensive onslaught by combining for 10 hits and nine RBIs.

Royals manager John Lowery Jr. shuffled the lineup a bit, and the moves worked to perfection. Dudley, who batted mostly in the middle of the order all summer, moved up to leadoff, and Steranka, whose batting average had dipped below .200, was inserted into the cleanup spot.

Dudley, the team's leader in on-base percentage (.465), set the table with three hits, including two doubles. Steranka, meanwhile, showed worthy of his manager's faith by going 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and four RBIs.

"I was surprised when he put me in the four hole," said Steranka, who had just 11 hits all summer going into Tuesday's game. "But the coaches have been real supportive of me. I've been struggling, but I've hit the ball right at people a lot. I just went in tonight with the attitude that I've got nothing to lose."

Perhaps that was Lowery's attitude when he juggled the batting order in hopes of jump-starting his team.

"Each night you make up the lineup and just hope you're doing the right thing," Lowery said. "Dudley has the best on-base percentage on the team, so we just decided to give him a chance up at the top and move Bobby [Rauh] down where maybe he'd see some different pitches. And Steranka has gotten off to a slow start, but I think he showed what he's capable of tonight. He did it all year at Penn State.

"We've lost quite a few games this year, but we've been in just about every one. We've usually played well in at least one phase of the game. We've just had trouble putting it all together. Tonight, we swung the bats well, we pitched well, didn't walk many, and we made some plays. We're capable of this. We've got a great bunch of guys. Hopefully this is the start of another streak."

While Winchester's bats did more than enough damage, it was the team's pitching performance that was key. Starter Stephen Rivera surrendered just one run and two hits in five effective innings, and reliever Matt Gerbe took care of the rest to earn his first save of the season. The two combined on a six-hitter.

Waynesboro manager Andy Chalot knows that if the Royals get their pitching settled down, they could be tough to beat.

"If you look at the stats they're right there," Chalot said. "They just haven't pitched all that well. They pitched much better tonight."

The Royals jumped out to an early six-run lead, scoring three times in the first and second innings. Fallon, Steranka and Brad Zapenas had RBI singles in the first. Steranka added a two-run homer, his third of the season, in the second to go along with Stephen Sabins' run-scoring single to put Winchester up 6-0.

All of Waynesboro's runs came courtesy of the long ball. Rhett Stafford's solo blast in the third and Tony Caldwell's two-run shot in the seventh pulled the Generals to within 8-3. That was as close as Waynesboro (13-11) got. The Royals batted around and scored five runs in the bottom of the seventh, with Fallon's bases-clearing double to right-center highlighting the inning.

Other Royals with multiple hits were Brad Wehrmeyer (3-for-3) and Gabriel Ortiz (2-for-5).

Fallon, for one, is hoping Lowery sticks with the new lineup, at least for a while.

"Why not stay with it?" said Fallon, who went 3-for-5 with a team-high five RBIs. "I think we just needed a change. We did some damage tonight against a pretty good ballclub."

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