By Greg Brill - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Tyler Hott is a little soft-spoken when talking about personal accomplishments.
After all, Hott is a freshman just trying to earn his way as a contributor to the Strasburg baseball team.
Hott did pretty well for himself on Monday night against Shenandoah County rival Stonewall Jackson. Hott allowed one earned run in six innings pitched and helped his cause with a homer and double as the Rams beat the Generals 7-4 at First Bank Park.
"I felt pretty productive tonight," Hott said.
Sophomore Aaron Doman pitched the seventh for Strasburg, which was able to keep all its top pitchers fresh for today's key Bull Run District game at George Mason.
"We felt like it was really important to score some runs early for our young pitchers," Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said. "We didn't want to put them in a situation where they felt like they had to locate every pitch. It was important to get Tyler a few runs, and I'm sure it relaxed him a little bit."
The Rams (9-1) came out swinging the bats early, scoring a combined six runs in the first two innings.
Strasburg put the pressure on right away. Leadoff batter Zach Cover reached on a two-base error when left fielder Jake Montalbano dropped his fly ball. The Rams would later drop a fly, as well.
Cover scored when Connor Gorman, just back in the lineup after an injury, lifted a sacrifice fly to center for the second out. A second unearned run came in when Michael Reynolds followed with an RBI double off the fence in left-center to drive in Derek Buckley, who had reached on a walk.
After he gave up a second-inning run, Hott showed he could go deep. The Rams pushed four more runs across on four hits in the second to open a 6-1 lead. Todd Dean (2-for-3, run scored) grounded a one-out single through the right side to start things, just before Hott drove a two-run shot to left off Sergio Martinez.
"I had the right mind-set," Hott said. "You just try to make contact and drive runners in. It just happened to go out."
The Rams would go deep once more in the inning. After Hott's homer, Cover (2-for-4, two runs scored) bunted for a hit and Sheldon Stickley went deep for the second time in three games, launching a two-run blast just over the left-center fence for a five-run lead.
Martinez got out of further trouble by getting Buckley and Gorman to hit a pair of fly-ball outs.
After that, Strasburg had trouble scoring runs as Martinez settled in. Martinez shut down the Rams until he gave up a one-out double to Hott (2-for-3, two runs scored) in the sixth. Martinez was lifted at that point for Andrew Kipps.
"Sergio pitched a phenomenal game after the second inning," Stonewall Jackson coach Morgan Saeler said. "I was joking to him that I'm going to have to let him throw 75 warmup pitches in the bullpen before I send him out to the mound again.
"He seemed to get in a groove [from the third inning on]. We didn't help him defensively in the first inning and a couple of long balls hurt us in the second inning when he got the ball up. Other than that, I thought he pitched a great game and pitched to the umpire's strike zone. He threw probably 90 percent fastballs tonight because he was hitting his spots with it."
Hott was right-on most of the way. Getting his first start since a season-opening loss at Page County, Hott relied on a defense that was sharp until his last inning, the sixth. Hott allowed just four hits, one walk, and struck out three.
"I found a couple of my spots, but my off-speed [pitches] were working pretty good," Hott said. "My defense helped a lot. I'm more of a [pitch to] contact pitcher. They just go out and make plays for me."
"He's always pretty poised," Smoot said. "That's always been a strength of his -- that he's an even-keeled young man and doesn't rattle easily."
Stonewall Jackson (7-5) made things interesting late, with a little help from the Rams.
Jared Getz (2-for-3, one run scored) singled with one out in the sixth for the Generals, and consecutive errors by Reynolds at second and Klay Fogle in right field loaded the bases. As Alex Collins struck out for the second out, Hott's pitch got away and Getz scored. Josh Litton also scored when he knocked the toss back to the plate out of Hott's glove on a collision.
Stonewall Jackson scored a third unearned run in the seventh when Getz drove in Montalbano (who had reached on an error) with two outs against Doman. However, Litten struck out to end the game.
"Obviously we hit a point there where our defense broke down," Smoot said. "I think we're all a little disappointed in that."