By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- It's not too often that a team can strike out 15 times while gathering just two hits and expect to win a baseball game.
But when a team gets a performance like the one Strasburg senior Aaron Doman displayed on the mound in Friday's Bull Run District showdown with Manassas Park, any amount of offense, no matter how small, is enough.
Doman tossed a complete-game shutout for the Rams in which he allowed just two hits while striking out 10 batters, out-dueling Cougars ace Joey Gaouette to lift Strasburg to a 1-0 victory.
"He was outstanding," said Rams coach Jeff Smoot. "He pitched the way that we felt like he could pitch all year and, I'm sure, he felt like he should be pitching all year. Very, very solid -- outstanding."
It was apparent from the opening pitch that runs were going to be scarce as both pitchers breezed through the early innings.
But while both pitchers were dominating on the mound, their methods of doing so were hardly similar.
Gaouette relied heavily on his overpowering fastball to keep Strasburg's (3-3, 1-1 Bull Run) hitters on their heels and flailing helplessly at pitches above, wide and well below the strike zone. Doman, on the other hand, preferred finesse over power, employing a devastating breaking ball that Manassas Park's hitters could never quite seem to center.
"I think it was the command of my curveball," Doman said of the key to his pitching success on Friday. "I could throw it for strikes and I really had it, and they just kept chasing it."
Gaouette was untouchable for nearly all of his five innings of work. Eleven of the first 12 outs that Gaouette induced were strikeouts, and the senior struck out the side in three of the first four innings.
Gaouette allowed just two hits, one walk and an unearned run while striking out 13 batters in just five innings before pulling himself out of the game at the end of the fifth inning after reaching his personal pitch-count cap.
"We just have to take a better approach at the plate," Doman said. "We went up there not knowing what our mindset is or what we're trying to do. [We were] focusing too much on how hard he was throwing and how good of a pitcher he is."
Strasburg's offense finally found a tiny sliver of life against Gaouette in the bottom of the fifth.
After Gaouette sat down the first two Ram batters to begin the half-inning, freshman Ryan Smoot, hitting in the No. 9 spot, slapped an 0-1 offering into right center for a two-out double.
Leadoff man Todd Dean followed with a weak ground ball that was fielded by Cougars third baseman Clarence Washington, but Washington's throw to first sailed wide and glanced off the glove of first baseman Cory Jenkins, allowing Ryan Smoot to score the game's only run.
"I said coming into the game, 'Whoever makes the mistake, the other team's going to win,' and we made it," said Cougars coach Gerry Campbell. "It's a shocker for us."
That was all the offense Doman needed as he struck out the first two Cougars hitters to open the seventh, both looking on a curveball inside, before getting Washington to groundout on a tapper back to the mound for the game's final out.
For Strasburg, Friday's district win, though not the prettiest, was a welcome relief as the Rams sought to right the ship after dropping their last two games.
"We're happy to get a win, we needed that one," Jeff Smoot said. "I think anyone who has paid much attention knows that we haven't played very well for a few weeks. This was a good win for our kids, we're all happy for them."