By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG -- Strasburg has been on a roll all season. The Rams haven't lost a game since April 1, and on Thursday night they added a trophy to their list of achievements.
The Rams topped Madison County, 6-1, to win the Conference 35 baseball tournament. It was Strasburg's 20th win of the season, and the Rams have now won 18 games in a row. Both teams advance to next week's regional tournament.
"It does mean a lot -- first conference tournament," Strasburg junior Ryan Smoot said. "We're the first team conference champions, track won last week and wrestlers won, but this is the first really out here as a team sport. It means a lot. Obviously, you want to win your district and you want to win your conference."
Strasburg junior pitcher Mark Smoot had a lot to do with the win over the Mountaineers. The lefty pitched six innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three with only one walk.
"I felt good. I had good command of all my pitches," Mark Smoot said. "I kept them off balance."
Strasburg (20-1) took the lead in the bottom of the third. Nathan Butler reached second on a single and an error, then moved to third on Ian Butler's groundout. Ryan Murphy followed with an RBI single off Madison County pitcher Austin Kelliher for a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the fourth, Mark Smoot was able to pick off two Madison County runners. After Ashton Weakley, who had the only two hits off Mark Smoot, singled Mark Smoot was able to throw to first baseman Ian Baker who then threw to second to throw out Weakley. The same thing happened in the top of the first and Waekley was able to get the stolen base.
"Weakley, he's fast. He's probably the fastest we've played against all year," Mark Smoot said. "He went on first movement, and I got lucky and threw it over there."
Dylan Berry then drew a walk, but Sam Taylor hit into a fielder's choice. Taylor tried to steal, but again Mark Smoot was able to pick him off to end the inning.
"The pickoffs were significant. I think they were trying to steal off of our first movement," Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said. "They guessed wrong, we guessed right, however you want to look at it. Ian Baker on all three of them, including the one earlier, played that really well. He came and got the ball and knew he had to get rid of it in a hurry, and he deserves some credit in all that, too."
The Rams added three more runs in the bottom of the fourth. Baker reached on a two-base error, and Evan Snapp drew a walk. A bunt single by Tyler Doman and another Madison County error scored both Baker and Snapp for a 3-0 lead.
Mark Smoot added to the lead with a sacrifice fly for a four-run cushion.
"I had two strikes. I was just trying to put the ball in play," Mark Smoot said. "I was looking soft. Usually pitchers with two strikes might throw something soft. He hung it a little bit, and I got as good swing on it."
An RBI single by Ryan Smoot in the bottom of the fifth extended the lead to 5-0, and a sacrifice fly by Ian Butler scored Strasburg's last run in the bottom of the sixth.
"We just weren't as productive offensively as we'd like to be," Jeff Smoot said. "We were opportunistic. I think we did take advantage of a few of their mistakes, and we were able to do enough to get by."
Madison County's Sam Taylor had an RBI single in the seventh off Strasburg reliever Garrett Richards.
Strasburg will host either Riverheads or East Rockingham on Monday at 7 p.m. in the Region 2A East quarterfinals. The Rams will play the loser of today's game between Riverheads and East Rockingham.
"Both are really good teams," Ryan Smoot said. "Riverheads hasn't lost yet and East Rock has only lost two or three. It's going to be tough. We're going to have to pitch good, going to have to hit good, going to have to play good defense. No matter who you play this time of the year, you're going to have to play good baseball. We're looking forward to it."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd