Rams roar back to avoid upset by Generals

By Jeff Nations

STRASBURG — Lexi Schlag glanced up at the scoreboard in shock on Wednesday night.

Schlag, Strasburg High School’s left fielder and leadoff hitter, was stunned to find her team trailing county rival Stonewall Jackson by four runs heading into the bottom of the second inning.

The scare was real, but the host Rams came roaring back to down the Generals 17-7 in a game shortened to six innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

By the bottom of the fourth, that deficit was still three runs when Strasburg freshman Cortney McDonald stepped to the plate to lead off the inning against Stonewall Jackson pitcher Madison Long. McDonald jumped on an 0-2 pitch and sent a towering home run over the left-field fence, and just like that Strasburg was back on track.

“Cortney started off with the home run, and it pumped us all up and we got back into the game,” Schlag said.

Rams coach Suzanne Mathias credited Schlag with helping her team escape the doldrums with a diving catch on Amber Welsh’s liner.

“I think Lexi’s play out in left got them hyped up coming in, and then Cortney led it off and got it started,” Mathias said. “That’s Courtney’s first — she’s a freshman.”

Strasburg (4-5) plated four runs in the fourth to turn that three-run deficit into a 6-5 lead, but Stonewall Jackson (0-8) wasn’t done yet. Long slashed an RBI double to center field to plate a run and later scored on a wild pitch as the Generals rallied to retake the lead at 7-6. In Stonewall’s previous seven games, the Generals had only scored a combined six runs.

“That’s one thing I will say that I came in and didn’t expect, and was pleasantly surprised — my girls, they don’t give up,” Stonewall Jackson coach Morgan Williams said. “They keep fighting, even when they’re really down, they keep fighting.”

The Rams delivered a decisive response the bottom of the fifth with a seven-run rally. Mikala Alsberry and Katie Smoot opened the scoring with RBI singles, then Schlag drove in two more with a triple to right. Carey Scott followed with an RBI single, Marissa Doman brought in another run on a groundout and Nicole Killen notched the Rams’ second home run of the night with a shot to right.

“They were a very good hitting team, a hard-hitting team,” Williams said. “I think I waited too long as a coach to change my pitcher. I think that was part of what I could’ve done differently as a coach.”

Scott’s sacrifice fly RBI opened scoring in the bottom of the first inning. Schlag, who was 3-for-5 with a double and two triples along with three RBIs, had led off the inning with a triple and scored on the fly out.

Stonewall’s Kylie Biller led off the top of the second with a double off Rams starting pitcher Megan Emswiller, and Kaylin Miller followed with an RBI single. One batter later, Jayme Kokkonen’s RBI single gave the Generals their first lead.

“I was stressing and irritated in the first three innings just because we weren’t making contact and we weren’t playing defense,” Mathias said. “I was frustrated at them because they’re a better team than they were displaying there.”

The Generals plated three more runs in the third, as Emily Bell and Lindsay Shifflett led off with back-to-back singles. Long got a run in with a fielder’s choice and Biller followed with an RBI single. Long scored the final run on a passed ball.

“We were hitting really good,” said Biller, who finished 3-for-3 with a double and an RBI. “I think once we got a few errors past the fourth inning, we just put our heads down and didn’t pick ourselves up. And then we stopped hitting the ball.”

Stonewall Jackson finished with eight hits, but committed four errors in the game.

“We’re still working on how to carry our momentum into the next inning and next inning and the next inning instead of letting it die halfway through,” Williams said. “It’s just going to take time. It takes time to learn that.”

Strasburg’s Marissa Doman finished with two hits, including an RBI triple in the third. Killen, Emswiller, Alsberry, Emily Melnikoff and Katie Smoot added two hits apiece for the Rams, who finished with 17 hits in all.

“That was good hitting there at the end,” Mathias said. “That’s what I expect the whole way through, but we’ll take it.”

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>