By Brad Fauber
NEW MARKET -- New Market has finally begun to jell as a team after a rocky start to the Valley League season. The Rebels put it all together against visiting Strasburg on Monday evening at Rebel Park.
Rebels starting pitcher Tyler Thompson tossed seven strong innings, and New Market's offense did just enough squeeze out a 4-2 win over the struggling Express. It was New Market's first victory of the season and Strasburg's fifth straight loss.
"It's been kind of a heckuva week and a half here, and we're really, the last two or three games, starting to look like a team again," Rebels manager C.J. Rhodes said. "... Tonight and last night and the previous game before that we've starting to play the game with a little bit more confidence, a little bit more intensity, and things are coming together."
The Rebels (1-7) got a tremendous effort on the mound from Thompson, who was making his second start of the Valley League season. Thompson, a right-hander from West Virginia State University who frequently changes up his arm angle when throwing from the mound, went seven innings and allowed just two earned runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out five.
"I believe he's going to have some of the best stuff in this league," Rhodes said of Thompson. "Coming from Rockbridge last year, he obviously knows what he's going to see from hitters.
"... Really today the focal point was just fastball command early, really pound the zone and then when you have the opportunity, obviously put them away with your best secondary pitch."
New Market, which has struggled at the plate so far this season, gave Thompson some early offense against the Express.
Catcher Jason Smith gave New Market a 1-0 lead in the second inning, as he reached safely on a chopper to the hole on the left side of the infield that plated first baseman Darian Carpenter.
The Rebels took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, when third baseman and No. 8 hitter Josh Mason delivered a two-out, two-RBI triple to right-center.
Strasburg, which out-hit the Rebels 10-4 on Monday, got a run back in the top of the sixth inning against Thompson, as catcher Anthony "Teddy" Payne plated Jose Bonilla-Treverso on an infield single.
The Express squandered an opportunity for additional runs when Sky Overton was picked off at third base on a botched first-and-third double-steal attempt. Strasburg manager Ben Moore, who coaches with Rhodes at Randolph-Macon College, had made several previous attempts at the double steal before Overton got hung up between third and home.
"I know [Rhodes'] play on first and third. He either throws through or he holds. I knew he was throwing through so I tried to get [Overton] to go three times and he didn't want to go," Moore said.
Strasburg (2-5) added another run in the seventh to cut New Market's lead to 3-2, as Jay Lizanich plated Howard Joe on a soft lining single over the head of Rebels first baseman Carpenter. But Thompson got out of a bases-loaded jam in the inning by getting a key strikeout an inducing a pop out to shallow center.
The Express stranded seven baserunners -- five in scoring position -- over the last three innings, including leaving the bases loaded in the top of the ninth against New Market reliever Joshua Falbo.
"It's all about concentration," Moore said. "I think sometimes, every coach gets it -- players come into the league and they kind of relax a little bit because it's summer ball, they're here to have fun."
New Market added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on Jake Kimble's RBI infield single.
Strasburg starting pitcher Taylor Martin lasted just 3 2/3 innings in the loss. He allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits, three walks and four strikeouts. Hunter Abbe, Scotty Ward and Brock Hunter combined to allow just one run on one hit over the final 4 1/3 innings.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org