By Brad Fauber
NEW MARKET -- East Rockingham entered Thursday's Shenandoah District baseball contest with host Stonewall Jackson desperately seeking some sort of offense after being shut out in its last two ballgames.
The Eagles found just what they were looking for, as they used a big fourth-inning outburst to back an outstanding pitching performance from junior Chase Comer in a 10-0 victory.
The Generals, who have experienced their own struggles at the plate over the last three ballgames, managed just one hit against the Eagles' right-hander.
"We're struggling hitting the ball right now," Generals coach Mike Lenox said. "Chase threw a great game. He was around the plate, didn't walk people and they fielded really well. I just felt like we weren't aggressive enough early in the count, and then we got behind and had to put his pitches in play."
Comer was able to shut down Stonewall's offense with a simple two-pitch arsenal, which consisted of a fastball and curveball, that induced plenty groundball outs from the Generals' batters.
Comer was able to consistently attack the zone early in the count while hitting both sides of the plate, and the junior seemed to be content with pitching to contact. Comer allowed just two walks and a hit-by-pitch to go along with his one hit allowed in the complete-game shutout. He also had three strikeouts.
"I've been told just to go out there and trust my stuff, and trust my defense, as well," Comer said. "That's all I really did. I just wanted to throw strikes, really, and let my defense make a play."
East Rockingham's defense backed up Comer with solid defense, as the Eagles committed just one error in the ballgame. Stonewall's pitching staff wasn't as lucky, as the Generals committed six errors in the contest.
Lenox said the Generals (1-4, 0-1 Shenandoah) are still trying to sort out everyday positions for several players, and the lack of practice on the baseball field due to the weather has hampered Stonewall's ability to work on fielding fundamentals.
"Pretty much the only time that we've been on the field is when we've been playing," Lenox said. "It's been a struggle so far, it's been stressful, but hopefully we can get a couple good days in here and get some work in."
Errors hurt the Generals early, as East Rockingham took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Travis Lugar, who led off the inning with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch, scored on a Stonewall throwing error on a routine groundball.
Things got worse for Generals starting pitcher Matt Litten in the top of the fourth, as the Eagles rallied with two outs for six runs in the inning.
After giving up a single to start the inning, Litten induced a flyout and a strikeout before a Generals fielding error extended the inning for East Rockingham. The Eagles made Stonewall pay, tallying five straight hits to plate six runs.
Comer helped his own cause with a two-run double to right-center, and John Dofflemyer followed with a two-run single of his own to give East Rockingham a 5-0 lead. Ryan Kite punctuated the rally with a two-run bloop single into very shallow left field that pushed the lead to 7-0.
"That's the thing I've been preaching to them, is that we have to eliminate that one big inning and we'll be OK," Lenox said. "It's happened in every game so far that we've had. We've just got to get an out -- if you get one then you can get two, and you start feeling more confident that you can do that."
The Eagles (3-4, 1-1) added three more runs -- one in the top of the fifth and two in the seventh -- off Stonewall reliever Colton Harlow. All three of the runs were unearned.
Litten allowed seven runs (five earned) on seven hits over four innings in the losing effort. Harlow pitched the final three innings for the Generals, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out four.
Stonewall is scheduled to travel to Buffalo Gap next Tuesday, and Lenox hopes the Generals can start to work out some of the kinks as the season goes along.
"We're still trying to find spots for players and trying to just get them playing upbeat," Lenox said. "It's hurting right now, but it's one of those things that can be fixed. It's not out of our control."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org