Small ball pays off for Rams

By Brad Fauber

STRASBURG — Strasburg didn’t need the big base hit against visiting Page County in the first game of the Ram Hardball Classic baseball tournament on Friday evening.

With Rams starting pitcher Mark Smoot essentially shutting down Page County’s offense for the first six innings, Strasburg was more than willing to take runs any way it could get them in a 6-0 win over the Panthers.

The Rams tallied seven hits in the game — only two of which left the infield — and scored four of their runs on two wild pitches and two safety squeezes.

“Against a quality pitcher, which I think their guy was, that’s the kinds of things you’ve got to be able to do,” Rams coach Jeff Smoot said, referring to Panthers starter Dylan Talghadar. “You’re not going to be able to go out there consistently against a quality arm and put a bunch of hits together. You’ve got to have something that you can fall back on when you get against those kinds of guys, and I thought we were pretty good at that tonight.”

Strasburg (2-0) didn’t need much offense on Friday, as Mark Smoot was untouchable for most of the evening. He was perfect before issuing a two-out walk in the top of the fourth inning and carried a no-hitter into the sixth.

Mark Smoot allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out seven in his six-plus innings of work.

“I had a good fastball, location-wise, and I was just able to mix pitches, speeds and outside, inside. Just kept them off balance,” Mark Smoot said.

The Rams stranded a runner in scoring position in each of the first two innings before finally putting up a run in the bottom of the third inning.

Senior Noah St. Clair — Strasburg’s nine hitter — started the inning with an infield single and moved to third on a passed ball and a stolen base. Talghadar got Ryan Murphy and Ryan Smoot to strike out swinging, but St. Clair came in to score on a wild pitch to Ian Butler to give the Rams a 1-0 lead.

St. Clair finished with three stolen bases and three runs scored in the game.

“We were not able to get enough hits but we were able to get a bunt down when we needed to, get a dirt ball read when we needed to. We had a couple situations there where we had a couple guys who really were outstanding on the bases,” Jeff Smoot said.

Strasburg added another run in the fourth inning when Tyler Doman (2-for-3), who reached on an infield single with one out, scored on a safety squeeze by Mark Smoot.

“That’s Strasburg baseball right there. Whatever it takes,” Mark Smoot said.

The Rams added two more runs in the fifth as St. Clair scored on another wild pitch and Ian Butler executed a safety squeeze to bring home leadoff batter Ryan Murphy.

Talghadar’s outing ended with two outs in the fifth, and he allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk in the loss. He also struck out five.

Two more runs in the sixth inning — one on an RBI double by Murphy (2-for-4, two runs scored) and another on a Page County error — gave Strasburg a 6-0 lead going into the seventh.

Page County (0-1) committed four errors in the game.

“We’re really young. We graduated a lot of seniors last year and I think that showed a little bit,” Panthers coach Jimmy Burke said. “That’s one of the reasons we were really happy to get out here and play tonight. [Strasburg is] always solid, we knew they were going to be pretty solid, but we thought at least we’re going to play. That’s the only way we’re going to get better now, with our youth, is to play.”

Mark Smoot gave up a single to Adam Campbell and a walk to Seth Comer to open the sixth inning, prompting Jeff Smoot to turn to Doman to finish out the game.

Doman worked out of the jam by recording back-to-back strikeouts before getting Joey Lam to ground out back to the mound to end the game.

“He just kind of came in there and did what a relief pitcher is supposed to do. He filled up the strike zone and went at people,” Jeff Smoot said. “When you’re pitching with a six-run lead, that makes it a little bit easier, but he did exactly what a relief pitcher should do in that particular situation.”

The tournament — which also includes Glenvar and Moorefield (W.Va.) — is scheduled to be completed on Saturday, although the status of the day’s games is uncertain with rain expected in the area.

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD