By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- New Market manager C.J. Rhodes will be the first to tell you that the Rebels' offense has been up and down during the early stages of the Valley Baseball League season.
There have been stretches where New Market has struggled to create runs, and yet other times the hits seem to come almost at will. Currently, New Market's offense finds itself in a bit of a hot streak, and Rhodes and the rest of the Rebels will gladly ride that streak as far as it will carry them.
New Market, which entered Tuesday's game at Strasburg two games back of first place in the South Division, kept the bats going against the Express, smacking 15 hits in a 12-5 win. The victory extends the Rebels' winning streak to five games.
"One of the things that I think just fuels that is where we are as a team right now," Rhodes said of his offense. "We're playing good baseball, we're competing the way we should, and that gives the hitters ... a little more confidence when they step in the box."
New Market (13-7) struck quickly against Strasburg starting pitcher Pat McGavin, as the Rebels took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a two-run home run by second baseman Kevin Casey.
McGavin got leadoff man Ben Schmucker to strike out swinging to begin the game before Rebels right fielder Landon Prentiss (4-for-6, two RBIs) reached on an infield single.
Casey promptly followed by planting a 3-1 offering from McGavin well beyond the fence in left field to give New Market the early lead.
"I was just sitting dead-red fastball. It happened to be middle-in and I just tried to get my hands through it," said Casey, who went 2-for-5 with three RBIs. "We've been clicking offensively the last couple games. Coach really preaches at the beginning of the game, the first three innings really hopping on the other team. We always try to come out as aggressive as possible."
McGavin stranded a pair of Rebel baserunners in scoring position in the second inning, but again ran into trouble in a 42-pitch third inning.
New Market sent 11 batters to the plate in the inning while sending six runs across to extend its lead to 8-0.
Casey led off the inning with a single, which was immediately followed by a long home run to left field by Derek Peterson to give the Rebels a 4-0 lead. Kevin McMenamin and Zade Denton each followed with singles, and a two-run triple by Ryan Messina gave New Market a six-run cushion.
Prentiss added another run on an RBI infield single, and Casey's RBI fielder's choice extended the Rebels' lead to eight.
"We had days where offensively we had two hits, three hits ... we've been down at kind of the bottom of the roller coaster, and right now we're at a point where we're seeing the ball well and on both sides we're competing," Rhodes said.
Strasburg (8-9) managed to score a run in the bottom of the third off Rebels starter Reiss Stanley as Chris Perkovich scored on a wild pitch to Tyler McDonald with two outs, but Stanley escaped further damage by getting McDonald to strike out swinging.
Stanley was able to work around trouble for most of his six-inning outing and, aside from giving up a two-run homer to Strasburg's Erik Armstrong (2-for-4, two RBIs) in the fifth, was able to prevent the Express from picking up the big hit.
The left-handed Stanley allowed three earned runs on five hits and three walks and struck out eight.
"It's one of those things where I think there is still a better Reiss in there, and I've heard there is. I know it's crazy to say with this being his fourth or fifth start, but there's still some more for him when it comes to improving," Rhodes said. "He's still inconsistent with first-pitch strikes, but one of the things you'll get out of him is he's just a competitor."
New Market rallied for four more runs in the top of the fourth inning off Express reliever Ben Gullo as Ray Lopez, Schmucker and Prentiss each added RBI singles.
The Express scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out, two-RBI single by D.J. Ruhlman.
Tuesday marked the second straight game that Strasburg's starting pitcher has failed to get past the third inning, and the Express committed three more errors in the field after committing three against Woodstock on Monday.
"We just didn't play very well, that's about all I've got to say," Express manager Butch Barnes said. "We've got to flush it and move on. We've got to get ready to play tomorrow. We've got a tough day tomorrow, a little road trip up to Charles Town. We've got to turn it around."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org