By Jerry Holsworth - email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- Strasburg starting pitcher Zach Cover pitched a brilliant two-hitter and the Rams' bats produced 11 hits to propel Strasburg to a decisive 12-1 victory on Thursday over Central in five innings.
"You just have to tip your hat to Cover," Falcons coach Don Foltz said. "He pitched a heck of a game. You just can't make any mistakes when you face a pitcher like him."
The Rams junior had a no-hitter going through three innings. He struck out six Central batters, including three of the first six he faced. Cover got a lot of help from his defense, though. The Rams' fielders committed just one error and gave Cover as good a chance as any defense could to minimize hits and runs.
Rams third baseman Conner Gorman made a diving stab on a sharp grounder by Sean Semones to hold Cover's hitless streak through two outs in the fourth. Frank Kopa finally broke through and got Central's first hit one batter later on a sharp grounder up the middle.
"The defense comes out every night and comes through," Cover said. "They really back you up. Coach [Jeff] Smoot teaches us to get the first strike, then stay ahead of the batters. That's what I try to do while I'm out there. When I can do that, things usually work out."
Falcons starting pitcher Kopa did well on the mound through three innings, allowing just one Strasburg run on two hits. But the Rams made the Central senior pay a heavy price for his success. Kopa was forced to throw 37 pitches in the first inning alone, and was obviously tiring as the game progressed.
"Kopa really got his pitch count up and began to start tiring," Foltz said. "A good team will take advantage of that, and Strasburg certainly did."
The collapse came in the top of the fourth. Michael Reynolds led off with single past the shortstop and Klay Fogle followed with a towering double to left that sent Reynolds to third.
"We finally started hitting the way we're supposed to hit and everything came together," Fogle said. "It was a real team effort."
The Rams eventually scored six runs in the fourth, driving Kopa off the mound for reliever William Trelawny. In fairness to Kopa, the Falcons' defense didn't give him much help, committing three critical errors in the inning.
Reynolds had two hits in the inning and scored a run. In all, four different Strasburg hitters got hits in the fourth, and Todd Dean, Cover and Derek Buckley all got RBIs.
"We really weren't trying to get the pitch count up," Smoot said. "We just weren't executing as well in the early innings. We had some good things happen, but we just couldn't get a string of good at bats. We finally got things going later in the game."
The Rams followed their six-run fourth with a five-run fifth to seal the win. Reynolds got the key hit of the inning, a two-run double to deep left that scored Buckley and Gorman. The Strasburg junior finished the game 3-of-4 with two RBIs.
Buckley led the Rams at the plate, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs.
"We hadn't seen Kopa before, so it took a little while to get used to him," Buckley said. "Towards the end I thought that he was getting a little tired. He had thrown a lot of pitches by the time we got to the fourth inning."
Kopa, who faced 20 batters through 3 1/3 innings on the mound, gave up six runs on five hits. He struck out four and walked one.
Cover got the win, allowing just one run through five innings. He struck out six and walked just one.
"We're real happy with the way Cover is pitching so far this season," Smoot said. "He was pretty good tonight, too."