Rams’ offense heats up against Warren Co.

By Brad Fauber

STRASBURG — It took a few innings, but Strasburg’s bats finally got going against visiting Warren County in Bull Run District baseball action on Thursday evening.

The Rams were unable to break through on several early scoring opportunities against Wildcats starting pitcher Austin King in the first three innings, but Strasburg finally found the offense to back another stellar outing from starting pitcher Mark Smoot in a 10-0 win that ended in six innings.

“We had some at-bats … in the early innings where we didn’t execute like we should. A few times we were in an advantage count and didn’t get the types of swings that we would’ve liked to have taken. But later on in the game we got better in that area,” Rams coach Jeff Smoot said.

Strasburg (3-1) managed to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first inning against the Wildcats (0-3), but King induced a double-play ground ball from Rams senior Ian Baker that brought in a run but minimized the damage. A fly out by Ian Butler ended the frame with Warren County trailing just 1-0.

“We were just having bad at-bats in the first part. It just took a little while to … get focused. Once we got focused, we got it done,” said Baker, who was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs for Strasburg.

King worked around a leadoff walk in the bottom of the second inning and sat Strasburg down in order in the third before the Rams broke it open with four runs in the fourth inning.

Tyler Doman plated a run on an infield single to short with the bases loaded to extend the Rams’ lead to two, and two more Strasburg runs scored on a single to center field from No. 9 hitter Dwight Reynolds.

“Prior to that we had experienced some frustrations offensively and I think that was a hit that kind of pushed us over the hump a little bit and gave us a little room to breathe,” Jeff Smoot said.

A bases-loaded walk to Noah St. Clair scored another run and gave Strasburg a 4-0 lead.

Mark Smoot, meanwhile, turned in another solid start on the mound for the Rams. He allowed just one hit in six innings to go along with two hit batters and four strikeouts.

Mark Smoot, who improved to 2-0 on the season, hasn’t allowed a run 13 innings pitched.

“It was a solid outing, but I didn’t really have much,” Mark Smoot said. “Mostly I just had my fastball. I could occasionally throw my off-speed stuff for strikes. I had my off-speed stuff the first four innings, but I just lost it. I just mostly located my fastball and got away with that.”

Strasburg added two more runs in the fifth on an RBI double by Doman on a fly ball that was misjudged in shallow right-center field and a Mark Smoot sacrifice fly.

The Rams ended the game via mercy rule in the bottom of the sixth inning against Wildcats reliever Rhett Tierney, as Baker laced a two-RBI single to left-center and Nathan Butler — who was pinch-hitting for Doman — narrowly missed a grand slam on a deep hit to left-center that plated Evan Snapp for the winning run.

Rams leadoff man Ryan Murpy also turned in another solid day at the plate for Strasburg, as he went 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

“At this point he has really solidified the leadoff spot for us,” Jeff Smoot said. “And defensively he has just been outstanding. [He’s] a very underrated player for us right now, I think — one that maybe a lot of people don’t really know about but he’s playing very, very sound baseball.”

Thursday marked the third straight game that Warren County has been held scoreless.

“We hit the ball better, much improved,” Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. “The result’s the same, but a much improved all-around game for us. Strasburg’s a good team and we kept it close for a while, but offensively we just can’t get anything going.”

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