By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
STRASBURG -- Tyler Doman tossed a complete game two-hitter to key the Strasburg Rams' 8-0 win over East Rockingham, returning the Ram Hardball Classic trophy to its host home, Saturday night at First Bank Park.
Doman, a junior righty, yielded two infield singles, hurled a no-hitter through the first three innings, notched nine strikeouts and walked three. He finished strong, facing only 13 batters over the last four innings, to record the win in his first decision of the year.
How dominant was Doman? Plenty. Except for a troublesome third inning, he faced only two batters above the minimum 18 in his six other trips to the mound, as Isaac Dean reached on an error in the first, and Comer got his swinging bunt two-out single to third in the seventh inning.
Doman induced nine groundouts and the Eagles managed only two aerial outs -- Travis Lugar's fly to center to end the sixth, and Joseph Gooden's line-out to second to lead off the seventh.
In addition to good pitch locations, Doman's breaking ball was moving about a foot horizontally.
"It's there for me most of the time," Doman said. "I use it a lot to get strikes.
"Today, my arm started feeling better as I went on. I was so-so at the beginning, but as we went on I was felt really good. But, that's not typical. Usually it'll be the other way around."
Both offenses were low-voltage affairs, as all seven of Strasburg's (4-0) hits were also singles, with four of them making it to the outfield.
The Eagles' pitchers augmented Strasburg's offense by hitting five Rams batters and yielding three walks.
Strasburg sent eight batters to the plate and picked up three runs in the third off Eagles starter Austin McDonald, with five consecutive one-out productive at bats.
Doman helped his own cause with a single to center, designated hitter Ian Baker tapped a two-bouncer over the mound for a hit, and Zach McDonald was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Ryan Murphy's infield hit to shortstop drove in Doman and Mark Smoot followed with a single to center, plating Baker and McDonald.
Second baseman Shannon Cross took the mound for the Eagles in the fourth inning and retired the Rams in order in his first two innings of work.
But the bottom fell out for Cross in the sixth, as he plunked three batters to equal the Rams' three hits, and Strasburg batted around to picked up five runs.
Tyler Hott earned an RBI when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Doman (2-for-4, two runs), batting in the clean-up spot, drove in Todd Dean (hit by pitch) with a bases-loaded single to center.
Third baseman Zach McDonald got two RBIs with a two-out single to center. McDonald also singled to center in the second, and scored a run after being hit by a pitch in the third, to go 2-for-3 on the night.
Doman generated the Eagles' (2-3) biggest threat, yielding all three of his walks to load the bases in the third, but escaped without damage, using a strikeout, a fielder's choice, and a come-backer to work out of the self-inflicted jam.
"[Doman] has good enough stuff, that he's capable of getting himself out of those situations," Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said.
Doman was nicked for his first hit in the fourth, a one-out two-bouncer over the mound to second base by Ryan Dovel.
Following Chase Comer's strikeout, Dovel was removed from the base-paths on the game's quirkiest play, when a 1-2 pitch to John Dofflemyer got by catcher Ryan Smoot and ricocheted hard off the backstop.
Ryan Smoot grabbed the ball in mid-air and rifled a throw to shortstop Hott, who tagged out Dovel attempting to steal.
Doman retired the side in order in the fourth, struck out the side in the fifth, needed only five pitches to set the Eagles down on two groundouts and a fly out in the sixth, and yielded only an infield hit to Comer in the seventh.
"[Doman] told us, at some point in the middle innings, that he was getting stronger," Jeff Smoot said. "I'm not sure we completely believed him at the time, but I think he may have been telling us the truth."
In the first-round games, Strasburg beat Glenvar, 14-4, and East Rockingham topped Moorefield (W.Va.), 8-3.
In the third-place game, Moorefield beat Glenvar, 7-0. Moorefield won last year's Hardball Classic trophy.