FRONT ROYAL – What started as a pitchers’ duel turned into an offensive shootout in the middle innings of Tuesday night’s Northwestern District baseball game between Skyline and James Wood.
Both teams traded zeroes on the scoreboard for the first 3 ½ innings at Bing Crosby Stadium, but a seven-run outburst by Wood in the fifth powered the visitors to a 7-5 win.
Skyline, which had mustered only one hit against James Wood (2-3, 2-1 Northwestern) starter Mitch Craig through the first three innings, found its offense first in the bottom of the fourth with a pair of runs to break a scoreless tie.
It was Cross (2-for-4) who got the rally started with a leadoff infield hit, which Tyler Hugo followed with his own single. A Quentin Diggs sacrifice bunt moved both into scoring position with one out, and junior first baseman Hunter McIntyre reached out and slapped an 0-2 pitch over a drawn-in infield to drive in the game’s first run.
Tyler Kerns’ RBI groundout with the bases loaded later in the inning gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead.
Skyline’s lead wouldn’t last long, as Wood countered with the decisive big inning in the top of the fifth in which they tallied seven runs on four hits, three walks and three hit batters.
“We walked a few right there and hit a few batters, and they got a big hit at the right time,” said Hawks head coach Jeff Monroe, whose team dropped to 1-3 overall and 0-2 in the district. “I thought Kevin was doing alright, he just hit that one bad inning. That’s been our season so far, get ahead, one bad inning and it costs us the game.”
Tylor McBride drove in the Colonels’ first run with an RBI bunt single, and Brett Baker gave Wood the lead with a two-run single down the right-field line. Cross and Hugo, who came on in relief for Skyline in the inning, combined to hit the next three batters to plate two more Wood runs.
Trent Campbell then floated an RBI single into very shallow left with the infield drawn in, and a wild pitch allowed another run to score for a 7-2 Colonels lead before the inning finally came to an end.
“Our hitters were patient at the plate and weren’t swinging at any bad pitches,” said Wood coach Brent Lockhart, whose team finished with seven hits and stranded eight runners in scoring position in the win. “After we got into their bullpen the second guy didn’t have his best stuff. Really mainly the walks and hit batters on their part, if it wasn’t for that, it’s a different ballgame.”
Skyline came back with three more runs in the bottom of the fifth, a rally started after Ty Clingerman and Hugo drew walks around a pair of strikeouts from Wood reliever Jacob Bell. Quentin Diggs drove in a run with a single on a grounder into left, and McIntyre (2-for-3, 3 RBIs) lined a two-RBI double into right to cut the Colonels’ lead to 7-5.
Skyline finished with seven hits but left seven men on base in the loss.
“Hunter had a big hit right there for us and got those two runs in but I’d say we’ve still gotta be more consistent the plate,” Monroe said. “We watched too many pitches tonight. They weren’t overpowering but the guy threw strikes and that’s what the key is. When they throw strikes you’ve gotta be hitting the ball.”
Cross cruised through the first four innings on the mound for the Hawks before getting roughed up in the fifth, and he limited Wood to one hit while striking out six in that span. He took the loss while allowing seven earned runs on four hits, three walks and three hit batters while striking out seven over 4 1/3 innings.
“He was pitching well. I don’t know if he got tired. He just lost the strike zone,” Monroe said. “He started getting high with his pitches and stuff and that hurt us. Like I say, you can’t afford to put people on base and when you start walking people that’s when you get hurt.”
Hugo tossed the final 2 2/3 innings for Skyline and gave up three hits, two walks and a hit batter while striking out three.
Mitch Craig lasted four innings for James Wood, allowing two earned runs on four hits, two walks and two strikeouts while earning the win. Jacob Bell pitched an inning of relief and was tagged for three runs on two hits, two walks and two strikeouts, and freshman Aden Payne (two hits allowed, two strikeouts) shut out the Hawks over the final two innings.
Baker and Campbell led James Wood with two hits apiece.