Offense sputters once again for Royals in 3-1 loss
FRONT ROYAL — Following yet another rain out (their sixth of the season) the Winchester Royals set out to build on the momentum of their best offensive performance of the season, a 10-0 win over Rockbridge on Wednesday, when they traveled to Front Royal for a Valley League Northern Division battle with the Cardinals.
Unfortunately for the Royals, their track record away from Bridgeforth Field this season has not been very good.
Through four home games the Royals are averaging just over 11 hits and seven runs a game. However, through three games (all loses) away from Bridgeforth, the Royals had just 10 hits total and scored a total of seven runs.
Those road struggles continued Friday night as the Royals let an early 1-0 lead slip away and dropped their fourth straight road game 3-1 to the Cardinals at Bing Crosby Stadium.
“It’s a tough one again tonight,” said Winchester manager Kyle Phelps. “We had a ton of base runners early and a ton of chases to score runs, we just didn’t get the hit we needed and didn’t get the guy moved when we needed to get the runner moved.
“We were grinding in there, but when you have that many base runners you have to have a guy step up in a big way and get the big knock you need. Tonight we didn’t come through in that situation.”
Winchester’s Gavin Free and Front Royal’s Dalton Potts locked up in a wonderful pitching duel, with both racking up impressive strikeout numbers. The difference in the game was Front Royal’s ability to manufacture runs while the Royals struggled in that phase.
Potts (2-0) worked seven innings, scattering six hits while allowing one unearned run. He walked two and struck out seven.
Free (0-2) on the other hand was just as good. He pitched 72/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. He walked just one and struck out eight, but his offense couldn’t get him any runs after the first inning.
Winchester (2-6) started off on the right foot when leadoff hitter Erick Quesada singled and later scored on a two-out hit by Jake Cintolo for the early advantage.
In fact, the Royals had four hits through three innings and appeared to have shaken off the offensive blues. But after the third inning Potts settled in and the Royals bats were silenced once again.
Over the last six innings the Royals had just two hits and only three runners reached base. Two of those made it into scoring position with less then two outs, but never past second.
“We just didn’t score enough runs,” Phelps said. “I thought things were rolling along at the start of it, but then we got guys on and couldn’t get them in. You’ve got to tip your hat to [Potts]. He got things going and got in the strike zone, but from our stand point we’ve got to score runs when we get guys on base.
“We just didn’t get it done tonight in that respect.”
Front Royal (5-4) didn’t have a lot more hits then the Royals, but it’s what it did with its base runners that was the difference.
Trailing 1-0 to start their half of the third, the Cardinals nine-hole hitter Andrew Seigel laced the first of his three hits to the outfield. He then moved all the way to third on an infield single by leadoff hitter Brandon Tierney and later scored on an RBI groundout by J.C. Cardenas to tie the game at 1-1.
After the Royals went three-up, three-down in their half of the fourth, the Cardinals took over the lead with another run in the bottom of the inning without the benefit of a hit.
Right fielder Andrew Moore was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jose Torralba. Free then helped the Cardinals out by throwing a pair of wild pitches, allowing Moore to move around the bases and make it 2-1.
Front Royal’s final run came in the fifth. Tierney reached on a fielder’s choice and moved to third on a hit by Cardenas. Brent Morris followed with a sacrifice fly to left to plate Tierney and make it 3-1.
“We executed well tonight,” said Front Royal manager Jake Weghorst. “We got some hit and runs, some sac bunts and stole some bases. Fundamentally we were very good tonight offensively. We’re still moving in the right direction, I’d rather not see so many backwards K’s. but we’re moving in the right direction.
“It’s always nice to beat Winchester. We had a great crowd here tonight, and the fans here, they like beating the Royals.”
In the seventh inning Winchester’s Jordan Peterson led off the inning with a bunt single and reached second with one out and Nick Lacik was hit by a pitch and stole second with no outs in the eighth, but that’s as far as either would get as Cardinals pitchers retired the next three hitters in both cases.
Front Royal outhit the Royals 7-6 with three of those coming out of their nine-hole hitter Seigel, who also scored a run. Morris finished 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI for the Cardinals. Quesada and Petterson each had two hits for the Royals, with Quesada scoring the lone run and Cintolo driving it in.
The Royals return home this evening for a doubleheader with the Charles Town Cannons beginning at 5 p.m.