Kennedy's pitching, Palensky's hitting leads Winchester Royals over Woodstock, 5-3
WINCHESTER – How fitting it was to have Winchester native and Millbrook High School graduate Ryan Kennedy tabbed as the starting pitcher for the Winchester Royals’ 40th anniversary celebration game. The southpaw delivered six strong innings and with the help of some timely hitting, the Royals defeated the Woodstock River Bandits on Friday night at Bridgeforth Field, 5-3.
“He had command of all three pitches. He had a lot of confidence in his breaking ball, and his changeup was a plus pitch today. He was able to mix all three in there and really keep hitters off balance,” Winchester manager Jacob Mays said.
Kennedy’s command was evident from the outset. Four of his first six outs were strikeouts and he induced a substantial amount of soft contact. His lone mistake came in the first inning, a two-run home run to Alex Goebel.
After Masen Prososky committed a one-out error, Goebel took a first-pitch fastball over the left field fence to give Woodstock an early lead.
“I left a fastball down the middle and a home run happens,” Kennedy said.
After that, Kennedy did not permit another runner to cross the plate until his exit after six innings. The Kennesaw State University product struck out six in as many innings while allowing one earned run on eight hits in his first win of the season.
“After that home run, I really barred down out there on the mound and told myself, ‘I really need to get ahead of hitters and start doing what I know how to do,’” Kennedy said. “Being in that rhythm, it’s an amazing feeling because once you get rolling, it’s hard to stop it”
Kennedy ran into some trouble in the sixth when he put two runners on with one out. Derrick Herd hit a hard ground ball right back to the mound. Kennedy gloved it and threw to Prososki at second, who was intentionally taken out by Anthony Cuozzi. The field umpire ruled interference to complete an unconventional double play and get out of the inning.
“Out there in Kennesaw State, there’s always that famous saying by Cooper Mayhall, ‘A strike and a groundball.’ I threw a 3-0 fastball strike and then the next pitch came into me, stuck my glove out, went right into it,” Kennedy said.
He immediately received run support after permitting the homer in the first. With a full count and two runners on, Aaron Palensky executed a perfect hit and run, as he found a hole between shortstop and third base to drive in Winchester’s first run of the game.
“(Palensky) has a very quick swing. Takes great approaches at the plate. When he gets his pitch he hits it; he doesn’t miss it. I think that’s what makes him so successful,” Mays said.
A batter later, Mays called for another hit and run, this time with Samyr Santos. He skipped a single past second base to tie the ball game. William Welsh gave Winchester the lead, 3-2, with an RBI groundout to cap off an eventful opening inning.
In the fourth, Welsh (2-for-4) increased the lead, taking a 2-2 fastball to the opposite field and over the left field fence for his first home run of the summer. In the fifth, Palensky (2-for-2) delivered again with a two-out RBI single to give the Royals a 5-2 cushion.
Trent Sidwell entered in the eighth to preserve a three-run lead and found himself in a jam. His first two batters reached on an error and a single.
"Usually I let Sidwell call his own game,” Mays said.
Although this time, the Royals' skipper headed out to the mound and decided to take over.
“I want to eliminate as much thinking from these kids as possible. I want them to just play the game," Mays said.
After the visit, Sidwell worked out of trouble, although allowing one run to score from a sacrifice fly. Ruben Ramirez held the two-run lead in the ninth to seal the Royals’ second win of the season.
Additionally Winchester’s newest player, Lucas Oxendine from UNC-Wilmington, made his debut tonight behind the plate. Although finishing 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, Mays was encouraged by what he saw.
“He really impressed me behind the plate. I thought he frames very well. Hitting wise, he’ll be alright.”
After an off-day on Saturday, the Royals play a doubleheader on the road against the Covington Lumberjacks on Sunday. First game is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. while the second is slated for 8:00 p.m.