By Madison Hricik

In case Winchester and Purcellville’s rivalry wasn’t exciting enough, the two teams met for the fourth time this season and it was as intense as things can get in the VBL. After over four hours of play, the Royals won in comeback fashion, 11-10.

With two outs in the second, Purcellville infielder Geordon Blanton began the team’s momentum by earning a walk in his first at-bat, then immediately stole second two pitches later. Outfielders Christian Collier and Brady Drawbough earned back-to-back walks to have the bases loaded. 

From there, it only took one pitch for Cannons’ catcher Matt Stinebiser to make his mark on the scoreboard. He sent the ball far into right field to allow the runners home and sit at second. Capping off the inning, outfielder Mickey Brinton singled into left field for Stinebiser to score run number four.

“It was a good start to our game,” Purcellville head coach Brett Fuller said. “We hit the ball and kept going early.”

Although the Royals didn’t get the start they wanted, the team got on the board at the bottom of the third when outfielder Ihosvany Castaneda slid home off a wild pitch to infielder Nate Furman. 

Purcellville kept the momentum going into the fourth, beginning with infielder Jack Hicks working a pitch count with bases loaded. With a 3-2 pitch count, the fourth ball flew just outside the box and allowed for Hicks to head to first while Stinebiser came home. Infielder Jimmy Goldsmith converted during his at-bat, earning a triple. The shot to center field paved the way for Brinton, infielder Will Portera and Hicks to run home. To nail the inning, infielder Wyatt Miles hita sacrifice fly to right field to send Goldsmith home for the 9-1 lead. 

Cannons pitcher Parker Collier held strong throughout his near five innings on the mound, only holding Winchester to six hits and three strikeouts. In one of his best performances of the season, the freshman gave the Cannons a comfortable 9-1 lead.

“He can take us through four innings well,” Fuller said. “He knows how to do that, and then it was time for our bullpen to come in.”

Like a light switch, the game completely flipped.

Winchester changed the game with two four-run innings to tie it up in what felt like seconds. Castaneda advanced to first before stealing second with no outs, waiting for his chance to score. Fuman answered the call when he singled, but advanced to third from a Purcellville error. Infielder Austin Bulman homered his ball to center field, cutting the deficit to 9-5.

“He’s been a machine for us this season,” Winchester head coach Mike Smith said. “[Bulman] has been consistent at bat all season long and it’s been great for this team to have him.”

The Royals held off the Cannons at the top of the sixth before their second four-run explosion. Castaneda and Furman scored through catcher Will Long’s single, followed up by infielder Christopher De Guzman’s single for Bulman to score the third run of the inning. Finally, the tying run came from Furman sprinting home on a single.

“It was good to see how we swung our bats and came back,” Smith said. “We don’t like playing catch-up baseball, we wanna get the runs early but it was still a good comeback.”

The Cannons broke the tied game with a run by outfielder Christian Collier when Stinebiser nailed his second double of the game. However the lead didn’t last as Winchester took over thanks to Furman’s double to right field for outfielder Austin Turner to score to tie the game again. Taking over the lead, Furman ran home during a wild pitch at the end of Bulman at-bat to make the game 11-10.

Just as the game reached its peak, Mother Nature stepped in for a brief rain delay. With only one inning left to play, both teams took the field again in the dark hours of the night for the final six outs. 

Purcellville wasted no time on the field, ending the ninth inning seconds after resuming play. Yet when it was time to tie up the game, the team couldn’t convert in their three outs. A Jack Hicks ground out to third was all it took for the Royals to end the game with a win.

The two rivals will meet one final time in a double-header on Wednesday before the end of the regular season. 

“We’re still fighting for our life in this playoff race,” Smith said. “We know that we still have to come out and play well because anybody can beat anybody in this league.”