Harrisonburg Cedes First Place Back to Front Royal

Cardinals Take Monday’s Battle for Top Spot after Turks’ 6-4 Loss

By Chase Kiddy | Harrisonburg Turks Staff Writer

W: Josh Keim (2-0)
L: Ryan Castellenos (0-1)
S: Kevin Becker-Menditto (4)

 

Two of the best teams in the Valley League met on the field Monday night for the third time this season. The result this time? A 6-4 decision for the visiting Front Royal Cardinals, who retake control of first place by half a game.

Harrisonburg (17-8) has been making a habit of never-say-die comebacks lately,  but they couldn’t quite muster enough for a late win on Monday. Trailing 4-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, first baseman Christopher Barr got on with a base hit and reached second when fellow infielder Thomas Smith blooped one into right field. Left fielder Eric Kalbfleisch proceeded to rip one down the first base line, bounding into the right field corner off Front Royal first baseman Hunter Newman’s glove.  Barr scored immediately, and Smith scored from third when the throw took a weird bounce on its way in from the outfield.

Kalbfleisch also got home before the inning’s end, thanks to right fielder Jesse Baker’s ground-rule double, tying the game at four runs apiece.

But Front Royal would have the final say. In the top of the eighth, with catcher Spencer Wolfe already on second, pinch hitter Jacob Russell hit a towering triple onto the center fielder warning track that Thomas Spitz laid out for and just missed. Baker was there to back him up, but somehow overthrew third base from right center field. The ball sailed into the home dugout, and umpire Greg Howard signalled Russell home from third.

The Turks couldn’t get anything going in the final frame, as Cardinals closer Kevin Becker-Menditto came in for his fourth save of the season. He got Spitz to barely make fair contact with a ball that rolled right in front of home plate, struck out Barr, and somehow snagged Smith’s line drive that was headed for a base hit up the middle for the final out.

Front Royal’s Evan Bickett may have been tagged with the loss in the VBL All-Star game, but he threw a gem on Monday night. Though he won’t receive an official decision, the spot starter allowed two earned runs in 6.2 innings. He struck out seven Turks and only walked one.

Smith finished 3 of 5 with two of the Turks’ six runs scored.

This is the third time Front Royal and Harrisonburg have met this season, with both previous games having been played up north. Harrisonburg broke an early losing slump after a 10-1 victory in the first game on June 5; Front Royal got its revenge with a 5-4 decision on June 18. Arguably the two best teams in the league, the Cardinals and Turks will play one more regular season game in Harrisonburg on July 18.

Harrisonburg will be on the road in Winchester and Charles Town this week, but will return to Veterans Memorial Park to play Staunton on Thursday. Game time is scheduled for 7:30pm.

 

 

Chase Kiddy has served as the Harrisonburg Turks’ staff writer since Spring 2012. Contact him at ckiddy09@gmail.com, or yell at him in the press box during home games at Veterans Memorial Park.


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