By Jeff Nations
NEW MARKET -- The lessons were there for the learning on Wednesday.
For visiting Stonewall Jackson, the non-district baseball matchup proved a test in patience at the plate as the host Stars struggled mightily to find the strike zone.
SVA got a crash course in perseverance, mainly for the same reason, in a 24-2 loss that ended after four innings via the mercy rule.
You could say the stars didn't exactly align for the Stars. After using his lone experienced pitcher, Randy Wiedemann, the day before in a 3-1 win over Massanutten Military Academy, SVA coach Tim Rickard knew it could be a long day for his squad against the Generals. The Stars used three pitchers in all, with each making their varsity pitching debut. It showed, as SVA's pitchers combined to issue 13 walks, hit four more batters, uncorked three wild pitches and got called for three balks. Stonewall helped things along with 12 hits, and the Stars also committed six errors in the loss.
It was a stark contrast to the season opener for SVA (1-1), when Wiedemann pitched seven strong innings with 10 strikeouts to pick up the win.
"Today I knew it was going to be a struggle," Rickard said. "Every guy that pitched today had never pitched before."
SVA's defense didn't help starter Trace Wilkins, committing three errors in the first inning that sparked a six-run outburst by the Generals. Trey Alger had the big blow in the inning with a two-run double. It was the start of a solid game for the senior first baseman, who finished with a pair of hits and three RBIs, plus three walks.
"You just have to wait for a strike, something that you can hit," Alger said.
Stonewall Jackson (3-4) piled on five more runs in the second against SVA reliever Justin Lee, an eighth-grader pitching off the mound for the first time ever in a game. Patrick Kerlin and Daniel Buhl paced the rally with back-to-back two-run singles as Stonewall built its lead to 11-0.
Run-scoring singles by the Generals' Casey Polhemus and Nathan Miller stretched the lead even more in the top of the third, but SVA escaped further damage thanks to a nice play by center fielder Luke Foster, who came up gunning after snaring Colton Harlow's fly out to center. Foster's throw home beat Buhl, who had tagged up, for the third out.
Maybe it was a spark for the Stars. Wilkins started a one-out rally with a single, stole second and moved to third on an errant throw. One out later, Steven Vandevire drew a walk from Miller to put runners at the corners. Austin Plank followed with an RBI single for SVA's first run, and Seth Fogg came through with another single. Vandevire came home from second on Fogg's hit, beating the throw for the Stars' second run.
"When you get a chance, you take advantage of opportunities," Rickard said. "You don't get too many opportunities. But the kids didn't give up, they kept on trying. We have a lot of young guys, and I'm proud of their effort."
The Generals put the game away with an 11-run fourth. Vandevire, on in relief, struggled mightily with his command. He eventually walked seven and hit three batters in the frame.
For Stonewall, Harlow had three hits and an RBI to pace a productive team effort.
"They still had good approaches at the plate and they were patient," Stonewall coach Mike Lenox said. "I told them regardless of what the score is and what the game is, you still approach it the same way."
Miller, a freshman making his first varsity start, pitched three innings for the win. He had seven strikeouts. Anthony Peacher struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth to seal the win for the Generals.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>