By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- Randolph-Macon Academy needed to rebound quickly from a close loss to Seton earlier this week, and the Yellow Jackets did just that on Thursday when they hosted Delaney Athletic Conference foe Saint Michael.
R-MA used a big first inning to jump out to quick lead over the visting Warriors, and the Yellow Jackets steadily pulled away for a 12-2 win in a game shortened to five innings due to the mercy rule.
"I think we needed this one," R-MA senior Andre Lake said. "We lost to Seton on Tuesday and it kind of put us down as a team. Today was just a day to up the tempo for us and get back into another streak."
The Yellow Jackets (6-4, 5-1 DAC) wasted no time in jumping on St. Michael starting pitcher Jack Smith, as Lake led off the bottom of the first inning with a walk and quickly reached third on a stolen base and an error. No. 2 hitter Travis Pullen then slapped an RBI single into left field to give R-MA a 1-0 lead.
Smith issued a walk and a hit-by-pitch to load the bases immediately following Pullen's single, and third baseman K.J. Graham dropped a soft single down the left-field line to score Pullen and extend the lead to two runs.
Thomas Abell followed with an RBI fielder's choice, and the Yellow Jackets added two more runs on a pair of Warriors errors to take a 5-0 lead after the first inning.
"It's always important to get early runs in a game because it puts more pressure on the other team," Graham, who went 2-for-2 with a double, an RBI and two stolen bases, said. "And it kind of lays us back on defense. Then we just have to make sure that we maintain it and just keep doing our thing up there."
St. Michael responded with a run in the top of the second inning as cleanup hitter Eddie O'Brien reached on an infield single, advanced to third on a pair of R-MA errors and scored on a double steal attempt.
But R-MA went right back at it in the bottom of the second, as Lake (2-for-3, three runs scored, two stolen bases) led off the inning with a triple to left-center and scored as Pullen's ground ball resulted in another St. Michael error. Pullen later scored on a passed ball with two outs to give the Yellow Jackets a 7-1 lead.
The Warriors managed to squeeze out another run against R-MA starting pitcher Doug Brennand in the top of the third, but Brennand was able to get Zach Wagner to strike out looking to end the inning and escape a bases-loaded jam.
"The best thing that happened was that I was able to get a young sophomore on the mound to start the game," Yellow Jackets coach Robert Locklear said. "Doug, his last time out, he threw a no-hitter against Quantico, so today was a good day for him to get out there. He got in trouble because he had the bases loaded, and he was able to work out of it. At least he got to see some of those situations."
Brennand tossed three-plus innings before giving way to Pullen in the fourth inning with two runners on and no outs. Brennand allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out four in the winning effort.
R-MA added two runs each in the third and fourth innings to take an 11-2 lead, and the game ended in the bottom of the fifth when Lake, who led off the inning with an infield single off Warriors reliever Andrew Dragan, stole third and scampered home when the throw from the catcher skipped into left field.
The Yellow Jackets stole 12 bases in the win on Thursday, and Locklear said the Yellow Jackets make it a point to be aggressive on the basepaths.
"It doesn't matter who we play, we're going to try to steal bases," he said. "We actually have really good team speed. I want [the other team] to try to throw the ball. I want them to throw it away so we can try to score more runs."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org