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Buckley heats up to boost Strasburg

By Brian Eller - beller@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- During Monday's win over Stonewall Jackson, Strasburg catcher Derek Buckley was frustrated.

In a game where most of his teammates had found success at the plate, Buckley had come up empty, going 0-for-3 with no runs and no RBIs.

On Tuesday night, however, Buckley vindicated himself. After an RBI double in the first inning that got him rolling, the senior made a statement against Page County, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs in the Rams' 11-4 win over the Panthers.

"It felt pretty good," Buckley said after Tuesday's performance. "[Monday night] I guess I just wasn't focused enough and didn't really come in ready to play. Tonight I was."

Buckley's solid night at the plate was just a taste of the power Strasburg put on Page County's pitching. A night after scoring just five runs on six hits, the Rams scorched the Panthers for double digits, including a four-run first inning, capped by Michael Reynolds' three-run homer that sailed over the left-field wall and into the trees that back the fence.

"Well, we clearly were better offensively than we were [Monday night]," Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said. "In fact, a lot better. It's hard to imagine it was the same team, but we were pretty sound out there offensively tonight."

With the offense firing on all cylinders, Strasburg turned to pitcher Aaron Doman to shut down Page County's equally dangerous lineup. Through two innings Doman was sharp, allowing just two base runners and keeping the Panthers off the scoreboard.

"Really, I thought the fact that Aaron was able to give us three-plus innings was a big key for us," Smoot said. "We knew that we couldn't go out there and have Zach [Cover] and Derek give us more than a couple of innings, so the fact that Aaron was able to go out there and pitch the way he did maybe was the most critical factor in what went on."

After the Rams added another run in the second, Page County finally got to Doman, scoring one run in the third inning and three more in the fourth. Left fielder Ryan Baker drove in teammate Tyler Jenkins, who reached on a single, then scored on the next at-bat as third baseman Tyler Gray hit a double into center field to cut Strasburg's lead to a single run.

The momentum didn't last long for Page, however, as the Rams' offense could not be silenced. Strasburg's first five batters reached in the top of the fourth inning, with four of them coming in to score. Buckley picked up his second RBI of the night, bringing in teammate Cover and reaching first base himself on an error by the Panthers. By the time Page County could get out of the inning, the deficit had inflated back to five.

"[Monday] it really wasn't a matter of not getting hits," Cover said. "We just weren't stringing any of those hits or quality at-bats together as a team. We'd get one here and there, we just couldn't put a bunch of them together. Tonight we knew we had to do that because [Page] is a good team, and I guess we stepped up to the plate and did a pretty good job."

With a significant cushion, Strasburg then used its bullpen to close out the win. Cover relieved Doman after three innings, tossing two frames but allowing two runs to open the door slightly for the Panthers to mount a comeback. Sophomore reliever Hunter Funk and closer Buckley made sure there would be no rally, however, as the two combined to throw the final two innings, keeping Page County off the scoreboard and giving the home team an 11-4 victory.

"It was a lot better than [Monday], you could say," Buckley said. "We had a lot more quality at-bats. Not just hard hits, but going up there, working with two strikes, fouling off pitches and making the pitcher work. It was a good win tonight."


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