By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Monday's Bull Run District quarterfinal game between No. 2 seed Strasburg and No. 7 seed Central had all of the makings of a back-and-forth battle headed down to the wire.
But Strasburg's offense came alive in the fifth inning and erupted for seven runs to rally the Rams to an 11-5 win over the Falcons.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game, it's a rivalry first of all," said Rams junior Tyler Hott. "And the district tournament implications just fulfills the game a little bit more, and then we just came out here and did our best and got the 'W' tonight."
Strasburg trailed Central 5-4 entering the bottom of the fifth inning before the Rams' bats exploded, aided by a questionable call and some inconsistent mound work by the Falcons' pitchers. The first seven Strasburg batters reached base and scored in the inning.
Central starting pitcher John Plunkett walked the first two batters of the inning and then gave up an RBI single to Rams senior Collin Cook (2-for-3, two RBIs) that tied the game at five-all.
Ryan Murphy walked to end Plunkett's day, and the Rams caught a break when Brad Hough, running for Cook, was called safe at third on a questionable call on Jalen Doman's sacrifice bunt attempt against Falcons reliever Hayden Bauserman to load the bases.
Brady Kibler then slapped an RBI single to right field, and Murphy scored when the ball was mishandled in the outfield.
"We took advantage of some of [Central's] mistakes and then it kind of snowballed on them, I think," said Rams coach Jeff Smoot. "To be fair to our kids, we had some pretty good at-bats in there too."
Mark Smoot then reached on a bunt single, and Ryan Smoot hit a sacrifice fly with one out to center field to give the Rams a 10-5 lead.
Bauserman (two innings pitched, three runs allowed, five walks, four K's) walked the next two batters to load the bases again, and Cook worked a walk to score Mark Smoot to give Strasburg an 11-5 lead.
"We knew it was going to be a good game. We just wanted to put hits together and get the win," said Cook. "It was great, we just wanted to keep it at zero outs [in the fifth] and everybody just keep hitting the ball. We wanted to get as many runs as we could."
Central (8-12) jumped on the board first in the top of the first inning when Sean Semones (1-for-3, three runs scored) reached on an error to begin the game and scored on a groundout by Ryan Rodriguez.
But Strasburg (15-6) was quick to answer as Hott hit a two-out, two RBI home run to left to give the Rams a 2-1 lead in the first.
"[Plunkett] threw me soft off the breaking ball, and he kept picking Todd [Dean], so I knew he was wanting to throw a fastball to me after throwing a breaking ball," Hott said. "He threw it right down the middle, and I just happened to have the big hit in the inning."
Central responded with two runs in the top of the third as Anthony Helsley scored on an infield single by Bauserman, and Rodriguez fisted a single into center to plate Semones to give the Falcons a 3-2 lead.
Strasburg retook the lead with a pair of runs in the fourth as Jalen Doman hit an RBI double and Mark Smoot laid down a bunt on a safety squeeze to score Doman.
Aaron Doman started on the hill for Strasburg and tossed four innings to get the win. Tyler Doman pitched three innings of relief for the Rams and gave up two runs.
Central took a 5-4 lead in the top of the fifth as Hott's throw to first on a routine grounder flew into the stands along the first-base line and allowed a pair of runs to score.
"The wheels came off a little bit," said Falcons coach Donn Foltz. "It just wasn't meant to be. [Strasburg] laid down perfect bunts and had some balls go their way. That's just the way it is."