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Fauquier baseball gets 1st win behind Simmons’ pitching, diverse hitting production

Friday, Mar. 22 | By Jeff Malmgren
The Fauquier Falcons won their first game of 2013 on Friday, 10-5 over Skyline. --Photo by Adam Goings
The Fauquier Falcons broke out of their offensive slump Friday with 12 hits during a 10-5 victory over the Skyline Hawks at home in Warrenton.

They had scored only five runs during their first two games of 2013 — both losses.

Perhaps the Falcons had simply spent too much time in practice taking cuts against pitcher Charlie Simmons.

As Skyline can attest, Simmons is nearly unhittable. The left-handed junior hasn't allowed an earned run over 9 1/3 innings this season and averages an incredible 22.2 strikeouts per nine innings.

En route to getting the win in relief Friday, Simmons struck out 10 Hawks while allowing no runs on one hit, two walks and one hit-batsman over four innings.

"He didn't fool you," Skyline coach Ben Taylor said. "He was challenging them. He was coming right at you. … Did a real nice job."

Simmons has a change-up in his repertoire, and he's trying to develop a curveball, but he relies almost exclusively on his fastball. It tops out at 88 mph and tails off like its driving on an exit ramp.

"The last three innings he just mowed them down," Fauquier coach Bob Martin said. He throws harder than most of the high schoolers."

Simmons entered the game in the top of the fourth inning with the score tied, 5-all. He limited the Hawks to four base runners the rest of the night, giving the Fauquier offense time to rejuvenate after it scored five runs during the first two innings.

Previously, March 15, Simmons struck out 13 batters against Eastern View in 5 1/3 innings, but the Falcons lost 5-2. All those strikeouts have even surprised the man throwing them.

"I built up a lot more speed over the summer and my ball's moving a little more," Simmons said. "It's just my fastball is getting past everyone now."

Fauquier's hitters haven't faced a lot of live pitching in practice over the past month due to the weather, but they have taken some swings against Simmons. And they have gotten hits off him.

"Sometimes. On a good day," Ryan Simpson said of his teammate. "You just come up there thinking you're going to hit it and he just blows it by you."

Fauquier had no such trouble against Skyline on Friday. Simpson went 1-for-3 with three RBI and a run, while Simmons went 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run, Gavin Cranford went 2-for-3 with three runs, two stolen bases and an RBI, and Max Winn went 2-for-3 with a run, RBI and stolen base.

"I knew it was possible for us," Simpson said of Fauquier amassing 12 hits. "I definitely had my doubts, but I've been with this group of guys for a year now, so I knew they could pull through."

The Falcons appear to have bought into Martin's preferred approach to batting. The Fauquier coach has preached the importance of hitting line drives and ground balls.

"There's a time and a place for the fly ball, but we were getting way too many outs on fly balls the first two games," he said. "We've improved there. We just had a better approach."

To wit, the Falcons struck out only four times Friday while forcing three fielding errors and running for five infield hits.

"They put the ball in play," Taylor said. "Any time you can do that at the high school level, you're going to have a chance."

The Falcons had plenty of flashing hits, too, including a two-run home run by Simmons and a two-run double in the gap by Simpson.

Simmons gave Fauquier a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning with a home run over the right-center field fence that drove in Cranford (walk). He jumped on a first-pitch fastball thrown by Skyline starter Chaz Rutherford, who took the loss with nine runs (four earned) on 10 hits, a walk and a hit batsman over five innings.

"Just be aggressive, wait for your pitch and drive it," Simmons aid. "It felt really good, like I got a hold of it – a lot of power into it."

Fauquier built on the momentum of that home run and finished the first inning with a 3-0 lead before taking a 5-3 lead by the end of the second.

"Once one person gets a hit like that, joy hits everyone," Simpson said of the home run. "It's contagious once everyone gets pumped up. That's the good thing about baseball."

Even Martin and his line drive/ground ball advocacy couldn't complain.

"I like to see four, five hits strung together," he said. "There are multiple opportunities for [runs].

But it was a "nice way to open the game," he said. "For the boys it's a big thing to hit the ball out of the park."

Skyline tied the game, 5-5, in the top of third inning with an RBI fielder's choice and RBI sac fly off of Sam Tinnesz, who relieved Simpson, Fauquier's starting pitching. Simpson allowed five runs (three earned) on three hits and three hit-batsmen while striking out three over two innings.

Sterline Jennings led the Hawks with two RBI, a double, triple and run on 2-for-3 hitting, while Robert Presley went 1-for-2 with two RBI.

Fauquier later took the lead with a four-run fifth inning highlighted by an RBI single from Ty Pavlock and the two-RBI double by Simpson.

The eventual victory gave Fauquier (1-2) revenge for an 8-3 loss to Skyline (3-2) in Front Royal on March 13. More importantly, it provided the Falcons some confidence going forward.

"It's important because right now in the county we're kind of not known as a winning team," Simpson said. "It's good to show everyone else what we're doing.

"I think that we'll definitely compete for districts and compete well," he said. "This game changed us."
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