CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Charlottesville Tom Sox (11-7) hosted the Front Royal Cardinals (11-11) Friday night, coming from behind in a pitcher’s duel to win 3-1 and pick up their second straight victory.
Lefty Zach Root (East Carolina) took the bump for the ‘Sox in his second start of the season. He ran into early trouble after a passed-ball third strike, a hit-by-pitch, and stolen bases put runners on second and third with one out. The runners advanced on a single to left-center, but strong relay throws from centerfielder Sergio Rivera (Florida Southwestern) and shortstop Kyle Edwards (Old Dominion) cut down the second runner, limiting the Cardinals to just one unearned run in the top of the first. Another Front Royal runner was caught stealing and Root recorded a third strikeout to end an eventful first half inning. While Brice Martinez (Wofford) recorded a single, Charlottesville otherwise failed to respond in the bottom of the first.
After a hectic start, Root settled into a rhythm for the ‘Sox, forcing three consecutive putouts in the top of the second. In fact, after the first inning, Root cruised through four more without giving up another run. He finished his night with five total innings, five strikeouts, four hits, and no earned runs. He was aided by strong defensive work from the entire roster, but especially third baseman Henry Ford (Virginia) and shortstop Kyle Edwards who initiated a textbook 5-4-3 double play in the top of the fourth to keep the Cardinals at bay.
However, Charlottesville struggled to gain traction at the plate as well. Front Royal pitcher Cole Schiff went five and a third, blanking the ‘Sox for the majority of his outing. Rivera singled in the bottom of the third, but was caught stealing to minimize the threat – one of a few costly missteps on the basepaths. Even with Root finding a groove, the Cardinals remained ahead 1-0.
It took until the bottom of the sixth for Charlottesville to generate any substantial offense— and even then, it came as a result of a Front Royal implosion. Martinez continued a productive night at the plate with a leadoff single, his third hit of the night. After a fielder’s choice, an error, and a walk, the bases were loaded and Schiff’s night came to an end. While the Cardinals picked up another strikeout and threatened to end the comeback effort, pinch hitters Connor Hincks (Notre Dame) and Chris Arroyo (Florida) drew back-to-back two-out walks to put the ‘Sox up 2-1. Another fielding error by the Cardinals allowed a third run to score, though a baserunning error by Hincks got him caught in a rundown and brought the rally to an end. Despite the miscue, Charlottesville headed into the final third up two.
Jordan Little (East Carolina) relieved Root and closed out the game in a dominant outing where he exhibited excellent command over his full arsenal of pitches. Neither ‘Sox pitcher gave up a walk across all nine innings, a crucial factor in a close game that was decided by control on the mound. Their control was especially impressive considering the humid conditions at CHO Airport Field.
Little pitched the sixth through the ninth, picking up four strikeouts and allowing just one hit to collect the win and put the ‘Sox ahead of the Cardinals 2-1 in the season series. While the offense limped to victory, Martinez was the standout, going 3-for-4 and raising his season average to .405. With the win, Charlottesville moves back into second place in the Valley League.
The Tom Sox will remain in action Saturday night in an away matchup in Covington to take on the Lumberjacks at 7 p.m.
The Tom Sox did not walk a batter for the first time since June 5, 2022.
Charlottesville allowed only six Front Royal baserunners after the first inning.
The ‘Sox recorded their second-straight come-from-behind win and their fifth on the season.