Winchester erases four-run deficit to stun Cardinals, 8-7
WINCHESTER – Situational hitting and producing with runners in scoring position has not been a friend of the Royals this season. However, that narrative was reversed as Winchester erased a 7-3 deficit to avenge Tuesday’s loss to the Front Royal Cardinals at Bridgeforth Field on Friday night, 8-7.
“We always seem to come and play our best game against the best competition,” Royals manager Jacob Mays said. “This is the first night I’ve actually seen us comeback. We were down 7-3 and we fought back and didn’t give up the whole entire game…That just shows the development we’re making.”
After trading leads in the first couple innings, Front Royal built a comfortable lead with a three-run fourth inning.
After recording the first two outs, starting pitcher Anthony Simonelli allowed a single to Ramon Miranda before Spencer Packard laced a double. Christian Avant, who already belted a solo home run in the first inning and hit a two-RBI double in the second, sent a tailing line drive into the right field gap for his second double of the night that drove in two more runs.
This extended the Cardinals’ lead to 6-3, while giving Avant five RBI in just four innings.
“(Avant) kept battling every time I faced him and I felt like he was just seeing everything I threw him really well,” Simonelli said. “It definitely wasn’t my best outing but at the end of the day the team won and I gave them a chance to win and that is my goal every time I’m out there.”
Alex Briggs opened up a four-run lead with an RBI single later in the inning. All but one run produced from Front Royal came with two outs. Simonelli was charged with four earned runs on nine hits over six innings.
“Front Royal is a very good team. They are No. 1 in our division for a reason. We were up in the zone all night. Once we got down in the zone, we were able to quiet their bats a little bit,” Mays said.
It was not until the sixth inning until Winchester started to mount a comeback. With two outs, Johnny Butler (2-for-4, 2 RBI) slapped a single up the middle to cut the deficit to 7-4.
“(The offense) didn’t try to do too much at the plate. We’ve been stressing middle-back side all season,” Mays said.
After James Grant pitched a scoreless seventh, Winchester rallied for two more runs in their half. Masen Prososky reached on an error before Samyr Santos stroked a gapper to put runners in scoring position. Ray Gil (1-for-3, 2 RBI) and Jordan Huntley (2-for-3, 3 RBI) each sent fly balls deep enough to score Prososky and Santos to trim the Cardinals lead to just one run.
“That’s always great when you can execute team at-bats. That’s a big thing our offense has been lacking all season and finally it’s starting to come around,” Mays said.
In the eighth, Chad Feely and Lucas Oxendine each drew walks to open the frame. A couple batters later, Butler delivered the game-tying single with a slashing liner into center field. Prososky drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly to left field.
"You are starting to see more team baseball instead of individual baseball. What’s happening is we are becoming a team…When you play team baseball, a lot of great things can happen,” Mays said.
Trent Sidwell, although allowing the tying run to reach third base, locked down his third save of the season. Winchester received three scoreless innings from the bullpen, as Jake Posey pitched one batter over the minimum in the eighth.
“Knowing that I’ve got my three top arms ready to go and they can get outs; that was huge. Any time you can give the ball to somebody you have confidence in that they can go close the door, it’s a settling feeling,” Mays said.
After finishing a stretch of four games against the top three teams in the league, Winchester (12-12) hits the road to duel New Market (12-13) on Saturday. Nick Beardsley (1-1, 4.70 ERA) will toe the rubber at Rebels Park at 7 p.m.
“If we can continue that against every team we play, we are going to be one tough team to beat,” Mays said.