By Brian Eller - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Zach Cover will tell you he's not an overpowering pitcher.
He'll say his pitches aren't really designed to leave a hitter off balance after an at-bat, and that all he tries to do is throw strikes and let his defense get all of the glory. That's what he'll tell you.
Opposing hitters, however, will disagree.
"That kid's one of the top pitchers around here," Central coach Don Foltz said. "It's going to be tough for anybody [to hit off him]. That's what I told my kids after the game. I said, 'You've just faced possibly one of the best pitchers in the state.'"
Those are high words for the young hurler. But Wednesday night, Cover showed why that praise doesn't come unwarranted. Cover threw a complete game, allowing six hits and striking out nine as Strasburg moved its win streak to seven games with a 6-3 win over the Falcons.
"Coaches have told me I have pretty decent stuff," an always humble Cover said. "I guess it just works for me. I try to spot [my pitches] as decent as I can and I get the job done somehow."
The way Cover "gets the job done" is usually with an array of pitches, both a speedy fastball and a collection of sharp breaking pitches. And early on, the junior's entire arsenal was on display.
Central had just one base runner through the first two innings as Will Trelaney hit a single to put a man on base for the Falcons. Other than the first baseman's hit, the Falcons couldn't figure out Cover's stuff as he had a one-two-three first inning and left Trelaney stranded in the second.
Meanwhile, Strasburg's offense had its share of problems, particularly in the opening innings. Mitchell Wilson broke up a hitless effort from the Rams in the second inning, then scored on an RBI double by outfielder Klay Fogle, giving Strasburg a one-run cushion. Fogle was left stranded at third, however, one of 10 runners left on by the Rams in the win.
"We were probably more discouraged with the approach of the offense, particularly at the plate," Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said. "We had a mistake or two on the bases, but our approach at the plate early in the game was not very good ... I don't know that we were patient enough. Obviously their pitcher was not very overpowering and we weren't willing to wait in [the box]."
Though not overpowering, Central starter Adam Marston, who was making his first start for the Falcons, was able to keep Strasburg's offense in control and force Cover to match him pitch for pitch. Marston lasted three innings, allowing just the one run on five hits.
With the game tied at one in the fourth, the tandem of Wilson and Fogle again ignited the Rams as Wilson led off the inning with a single, then scored on another double by Fogle to put Strasburg ahead, 2-1. With two more runs in both the fifth and sixth innings, Strasburg built a solid 6-1 lead, one that left in the hands of Cover was as good as done, even as his pitch count began to rise late in the game.
"Everything felt the same because I'm always confident about my defense," Cover said. "I thought I still had pretty good stuff. I wasn't getting tired out there."
Cover pitched his way into the seventh inning, where three outs separated him from another victory. But the Falcons wouldn't go quietly. After a strikeout to open the inning, Central's Sean Semones reached on a walk, then advanced to second on a single from Seth Bauserman. A groundout by catcher Juan Troncoso accounted for the second out, but moved both runners into scoring position.
The two scored on the next play, as Marston hit a two-run single to cut the deficit to three runs. Following a double by Kyle Kelican, the tying run came to the plate, but there was still no doubt about who would be on the mound for the final out.
"I don't know that we could've brought anyone in that would've been any more effective than he was," Smoot said. "He clearly wasn't as good as he was earlier in the game but even less than 100 percent, he's still not bad."
Just as he had done all game, Cover used his command to seal the game, getting Trelany to look at a called strike three, leaving the runners stranded and putting the Rams in the win column.
"Well, when you've got two outs you're just trying to not let him square one up on you," Cover said. "If you can get him to hit a soft one, you've got a good chance at getting him out so the whole goal is not a strikeout, but I guess it worked out that way."