By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Home field provided no advantage for the Strasburg Rams softball squad, as they dropped their second match-up of the season to the Luray Bulldogs, 10-3, on Saturday night.
Strasburg lost its season opener, 9-3, at Luray on March 18th.
Things were looking good for the Rams in the first inning. Sophomore pitcher Katlyn Ayers opened the game with two strikeouts and a ground out.
At the plate, centerfielder Casey Spiker led off by laying down a perfect bunt 8 feet in front of plate to the right side for a base hit. Spiker advanced to second on a passed ball, and to third on shortstop Allyson Ponn's ground out. Two outs later, catcher Tiffany Milgrim hit a hard grounder over second base, knocking in Spiker, for a 1-0 lead.
That was pretty much the end of the good news for the Rams.
In spite of being sick all week, Bulldogs senior hurler Jennifer Jewell tossed a complete game, striking out eight and giving up only two earned runs, for her second win of the young season.
The Rams (0-3), still seeking their hitting grooves, managed only four hits, with sophomore right fielder Ashleigh Smith's RBI liner to right in the fourth inning their only solid whack out of the infield.
"Our bats have gotta come alive," Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias said. "That's what's killing us now. We're not getting many hits, and what we're getting is so sporadic that we've not been able to put strings of runs together."
Jewell finished strong, striking out the first two batters she faced in the final frame. She then issued her only walk to Rams first baseman Siaura Saville, before getting Spiker to end the game on a ground out.
Jewell also finished strong at the plate, sending a fly ball over Spiker's head in center field that landed at the base of the fence for an RBI double in the seventh.
"I knew [I hadn't walked anyone until then], but I just focused on my job," Jewell said. "I felt good [when I hit the double]. It was right down the middle, a fastball."
Sophomore first baseman Jennifer Kelly smashed a line-drive two-run homer in the third inning that exited the park quickly, just over the left-field fence.
"I wasn't looking for any certain pitch. I didn't know it was a homer until I rounded first base," Kelly said.
"[The homer] pumped me up," Jewell said.
Ayers lost her first-inning sharpness, often going out of the strike zone high, and was victimized by an error in the second inning.
After a ground out, Luray's Caitlyn Kemp lined a single to right-center field and Haley Kemp grounded out, moving Caitlyn Kemp to second.
Ayers then walked Jewell and Desarae Griffith on 3-0 and 3-1 counts. Saville muffed a grounder and Caitlyn Kemp and Jewell scored on the error.
The walk bug struck Ayers again in the fourth, with Luray sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring five runs.
Ayers issued free passes to Jewell and Brooklyn Good, sandwiched around a strikeout of Griffith.
The Bulldogs (2-2) then bunched three consecutive hits: an RBI single to right by Makalya Richards, a two-RBI ground ball single over second base by Katherine Weaver and an RBI double to left-center field by Megan Hilliard.
Ponn relived Ayers, but the Rams' troubles continued with an error by third baseman Brooklyn Rush that resulted in Luray's fifth run of the frame. That was followed by a walk to Caitlyn Kemp and a hit batter.
The offensive storm was quelled when Ponn struck out Jewell and Kelly was caught trying to steal third.
"That's what we've been needing," Luray coach Charlie Turner said. "We haven't had a game like this. I think everybody in the lineup got on base, and we had eight different people score. When you get that, everybody's contributing, and that means a lot."
"The score's not indicative of how we played tonight," Mathias said. "I thought we did a good job defensively, overall. We've got some kinks that need to be worked out, which is to be expected this early in the season. So I think if we can get [the hitting solved], it's all going to come together, and we're going to be OK."