CORRECTION: A photo published Tuesday should have identified Stonewall Jackson's Anthony Peacher as the player making a catch during a baseball game against Strasburg.
By Brian Eller - email@example.com
NEW MARKET -- Watching Mitchell Wilson on Monday, it was hard to tell this was his first start of the season.
With the composure, the confidence, even the occasional swagger of a seasoned veteran on the hill, Wilson was impressive in his debut, lasting six innings and allowing just one run while striking out nine to lead Strasburg over Stonewall Jackson, 5-1.
"He was around the plate, got ahead and threw all three pitches for strikes," Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said. "And when you can do that, you're going to be pretty effective. He's obviously not very overpowering, but he's doing really well for us. He certainly did not pitch like it was his first start."
The confidence from Mitchell exuded from the opening pitch, as the Generals struggled to adjust to the southpaw's triple threat of pitches. Through two innings, Stonewall (4-2) had just one base runner -- who reached on an error -- and was struggling to even get the ball out of the infield.
Fortunately for the home team, the Rams (3-1) also had trouble igniting their offense early on. Stonewall pitcher Ryan Henschel was shaky at times, allowing the leadoff hitter to reach base in every inning. But through two innings he was able to keep Strasburg off the scoreboard.
"I think Ryan had his best stuff of the year tonight," Stonewall coach Morgan Saeler said. "He made some good pitches and sometimes he just didn't get the calls, but it is what it is."
Henschel's good fortune ran out in the top of the third, as the Rams finally got on the scoreboard. Leadoff hitter Zach Cover, who went 4-for-5 on the day, reached base on one of his four singles, then scored on a single from Michael Reynolds to give Strasburg a 1-0 lead.
Stonewall responded in the bottom half of the frame, tying the game when catcher Jared Getz, who reached base on a walk, scored on a single by center fielder Matthew Litten.
Following the run by the Generals, Mitchell was lights out, issuing just one hit over the next three innings. The junior struck out the side in the fourth inning and picked up two more strikeouts in the fifth, keeping his team in position for the win.
But while Mitchell improved following the run to Getz, Henschel appeared to become rattled, and things fell apart in the fifth inning. Four of the first five batters reached base without getting a hit, as Henschel plunked leadoff hitter Connor Gorman, then issued three walks to bring in the go-ahead run for the Rams. That would be all for the junior, as the Rams were threatening to break the game wide open.
Sure enough, Strasburg did just that. Stonewall's relief help wasn't much help at all, as the Rams scored three more runs in the inning to take a 5-1 lead. And with Mitchell still impressing on the mound, that lead seemed all but insurmountable.
"Well, the story of the game was we walked 13 guys," Saeler said. "You can't give a team like Strasburg 13 free passes and expect to win.
"... We need to get better. We need to keep working on the little things. Tonight we did a lot of the little things right, but not enough. We need to keep working on those things to be successful and beat teams like Strasburg."
With the game in hand, Mitchell's day was over after six innings, as Smoot brought in Tyler Hott to close the deal. The Generals mustered a small rally in the final frame, putting two runners on base, but weren't able to bring either across the plate, giving Strasburg its third straight win and giving Mitchell his first victory of the season.
"He pitched very well," Smoot said. "And for as many struggles as we had offensively, it's a good thing he did pitch well for us because if he hadn't gone out there and kept us in the game, the score may have been reversed."