By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Strasburg pitcher Zach Cover pitched six innings of near-perfect baseball to propel the Rams to a convincing 7-0 victory over Luray on Saturday.
Cover allowed just one hit, a two-out double to right-center field in the sixth, to leave the Bulldogs (1-2) without any chance to answer Strasburg's (1-1) seven runs.
"Considering that it's his first start I thought that Zach had a good outing," Rams coach Jeff Smoot said. "He kept the ball over the plate and was usually ahead of the batters."
Cover registered seven strikeouts and only two walks while keeping the Bulldogs out of scoring position. Luray managed to get runners in scoring position in just three innings. In two of those innings, Strasburg errors, not Cover's pitching, was responsible.
"I'm happy with the way I pitched, but I'm even more happy with the win," Cover said. "This is a team sport and any time we get a win I'm going to be happy."
Despite the two errors, the Ram defense gave Cover strong support for most of the game.
"I just tried to throw strikes and stay ahead of the hitters," Cover said. "The defense took care of the rest. They really had my back out there."
The Strasburg defense sent the Bulldogs to the bench in order in four of the seven innings. Three of those were with Cover on the mound. Derek Buckley, who relieved Cover in the seventh, also retired the batters in order.
"I thought our defense did well," Smoot said. "We didn't have a lot of difficult plays, but we did make all of the routine ones."
Cover's performance wasn't lost on Luray.
"This just wasn't our night," Bulldog coach Steve Griffith said. "Cover pitched a heck of a game. I asked the guys after the game how many times he put it right down the middle of the plate for them. Not a single player raised his hand. He really hit his spots tonight and kept our batters completely off balance."
While Cover was holding the Luray bats in check, the Strasburg offense was consistently putting runs on the scoreboard behind him. The Rams took advantage of poor fielding and smart base running to score at least one run in all but the fifth inning.
The Rams benefited from a pair of hit batters and an error to score their first two runs of the game in the second. Conner Gorman and Lay Fogle both advanced after begin hit by Bulldog starting pitcher Logan McCaughan. Gorman scored on a a fielding error on a grounder by Mitchell Wilson. A single by Cover scored Fogle.
The Rams took advantage of three walks and another Luray error in the third to go up 5-0. Buckley led off the inning with a walk, then scored on a triple by Gorman. Michael Reynolds scored Gorman later in the inning with a sacrifice fly to right.
Another pair of walks and an error garnered another Strasburg run in the inning.
Buckley led off the fourth with a double to left-center field. After Gorman advanced him to third on a sacrifice bunt, Buckley scored on a ground out to first by Reynolds to put Strasburg up 6-0.
Gorman scored again in the sixth on a wild pitch by Bulldogs relief pitcher Joe Caviness.
The Bulldogs' only threat came in the fourth when they were able to load the bases with two outs on a pair of walks by Cover. He responded by striking out Tommy Weaver to end the inning.
McCaughan took the loss, allowing five runs on four hits through 2 1/3 innings on the mound.
Buckley was the top performer at the plate for the Rams going 2-for-4 at the plate and scoring two runs. Reynolds and Cover led Strasburg with two RBIs each.