By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- Strong starting pitching and timely hitting -- that's been the formula for Strasburg's baseball team this season, and the Rams got more of the same against visiting Madison County on Monday evening.
Senior pitcher Tyler Doman went six solid innings, and Strasburg's offense delivered some clutch two-out hits as the Rams beat the Mountaineers 4-2 in Bull Run District action.
The Rams have won 13 games in a row.
"We've definitely found a rhythm all the way around, every aspect of the game, I think," Strasburg senior Ian Baker said. "I can't say enough about Tyler. He just goes up there every time and just pounds the strike zone. He gets it done for us. And we just have the bats to get the runs in and get him the win."
Doman struggled with his command in the early innings, but he settled in nicely to deliver yet another quality start for the Rams (15-1, 11-1 Bull Run). The senior right-hander allowed two earned runs on five hits and three walks, while striking out a career-high 11 batters.
"You know the old baseball adage, 'you're as good as you're next day's starting pitcher.' When you're able to run a guy out there and pitch as well as Tyler did tonight, you're going to give yourself a chance. And we've been able to do that on a pretty consistent basis," Rams coach Jeff Smoot said. "We were really concerned early because his pitch count was such that we did not think he had a realistic chance to finish the game ... but as he got into the middle innings he got a little better, had a little better command."
Doman issued two of his three walks in the top of the first inning, but he was able to avoid any damage by striking out the side. He didn't allow a hit until a one-out single by Shane Aylor in the top of the fifth.
"The first inning I was a little rusty I guess, but then I settled in a little bit," Doman said. "I don't think I had my A game or anything, but it still was a pretty good night. We got the win, that's all that matters."
Strasburg's offense gave Doman some wiggle room in the bottom of the third inning with a pair of two-out hits off Madison County starting pitcher Collin Shifflett. Sophomore Nate Butler reached on a one-out error, and a single on a grounder to right field by senior Ryan Murphy put runners at the corners with two outs.
Baker jumped on the first pitch he saw and lined a double to right field that scored two runs and gave Strasburg a 2-0 lead.
"Right there I was just looking for a pitch to do something with," said Baker, who was 2-for-3 with three RBIs. "I wasn't really wasn't looking for a specific pitch, just a fastball that I could do something with and put it on the field to get those runs in."
Baker delivered again with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, as he singled to left field to plate another run. Senior Evan Snapp followed with a triple to center field as Madison County's Lawrence Weakley failed on a diving attempt to catch the line drive. Baker scored to give Strasburg a 4-0 lead.
All seven of the Rams' hits -- and all four runs -- came with two outs.
"[Baker] had a super night for us, and the other thing ... is that our runs were with two outs. That is typically one of the things you've got to be able to do to win close games, is get a two-out hit," Smoot said.
Madison County (7-8, 5-7) finally put some pressure on Doman in the sixth inning. Lawrence Weakley (2-for-4) led off the inning with a swinging-bunt single and stole second, then came around to score on a double to center field by Dylan Berry.
The Mountaineers loaded the bases with no outs following a walk and a fly ball single by Shifflett that was overrun along the left-field line, but Doman got a big strikeout for the inning's first out.
Nicolaus Smith singled on a grounder in the hole at short to plate another run, but Doman -- who threw 42 pitches in the sixth -- got Aylor and Cole Smith to strike out swinging to end the threat.
"There was just some plays that we usually make. It happens sometimes. I just had to get over it and sit there and throw strikes," said Doman, who threw 120 pitches. "I wasn't really thinking about the runners, I was just thinking about throwing strikes and getting outs."
Ryan Smoot closed out the game for Strasburg by tallying two strikeouts while working around a one-out hit in the top of the seventh for his second save of the season.
Shifflett went all six innings for Madison County and allowed just one earned run on seven hits and one walk. He struck out one.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD