Royals squander late lead, fall 10-6 to Braves in extras
WINCHESTER — With just over two weeks remaining in the Valley Baseball League regular season, the Winchester Royals face an uphill battle if they hope to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time since 1998, when the team finished a franchise-worst 15-25.
In a summer that’s been filled with rainouts, extra-inning games and tough losses, the season is becoming more and more frustrating, and it did not get any easier Wednesday night.
One night after rallying to tie a game in the ninth and exploding for six runs in the 10th in a 10-4 road victory over Rockbridge, the Royals watched the visiting Staunton Braves do almost the exact same thing to them, only in 11 innings.
Staunton rallied for an unearned run in the ninth to tie the game then scored four more unearned runs in the 11th to steal a victory from the Royals 10-6 at Bridgeforth Field.
In all, the Braves scored six unearned runs thanks to four Royals errors and solidified their hold on third place in the VBL’s South Division.
“We probably lead the league in extra-inning games and tough losses, if you want to call it that,” said Royals manager Kyle Phelps. “We can talk about the record being whatever it is, not very good right now, but it could be easily flipped with the one-run games and extra-inning losses and those things there. It’s frustrating to have the lead and then blow it on defensive mistakes and miscues.
“On the offensive side it was good. We grinded, we did the things we needed to do to put up six runs on a team that’s pretty good. That team can hit, they can play, they’re up there in the South Division and we played right there with them just like I knew we could. It’s just disappointing in the way it resulted and the way it ended.”
With the game tied 6-6 in the top of the 11th, Braves catcher Zack Fisher flared a single just fair inside the right-field line for what appeared to be an innocent start to the inning.
However, each of the next two hitters, Frank Grandinette and Josh Sharp, reached base when their attempted sacrifice bunts were misplayed for errors, loading the bases with no outs.
Following a strikeout, center fielder Quinn Bower drew a four-pitch walk to force in a run and one out later Blake Sipe cleared the bases with a three-run double to the fence in left center.
Winchester (8-21) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but found themselves down 5-2 after five innings of play.
The Royals manufactured a run in the sixth to pull within two and then rallied for the lead in the eighth.
Edgar Michelangeli led off the eighth with a walk and moved around the bases on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Erick Quesada drove in Michelangeli and reached on a error to make it 5-4. Quesada took second while the Braves were arguing the call at the plate and one out later scored to tie the game on Nick Lacik’s single to left.
J.D, Long singled to put runners on the corners and Jordan Peterson’s infield RBI single scored what appeared to be the winning run, giving the Royals the lead back at 6-5.
Staunton (17-12) started its ninth-inning rally with a leadoff walk to Fisher, who moved to second on a sac bunt and to third on a wild pitch.
With one out the Royals pulled their infield in on the grass and it worked perfectly, except Sharp’s ground ball was misplayed for another error, allowing the tying run to score and forcing extra innings.
The Royals had several opportunities to add more runs to their total, but none more golden then when they had the bases loaded in the fourth with no outs and could only muster one run to close to within 3-2 at the time.
For the game, the Royals outhit the Braves 13-10 but doubled them in errors 4-2, with each of the four costing them on the scoreboard.
Lacik led the way for the Royals with three hits while Long, Peterson, and Woody each had two. Staunton was led by Sipe who had two hits, four RBIs and scored a run.
Winchester is in Strasburg tonight for a makeup game with the Express and will return home Saturday to take on the North Division leaders in the Woodstock River Bandits.