Eagles’ pitching stifles Rams

Strasburg's Megan Emswiller slides around the tag of Clarke County second baseman Molly Lanham on a second base steal during third-inning action on Monday in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG — Host Strasburg had trouble getting base runners aboard versus sterling Clarke County pitching, and lost a 12-2 decision in Monday’s Bull Run District game to the Eagles.

The victory for the visiting Eagles (4-3, 4-6) came after five losses in their last six games. Two of those defeats were at the hands of 4A Sherando.

Meanwhile, the Rams (5-3, 7-3) were coming off back-to-back victories over George Mason and Manassas Park.

“I think we have just as good of players as [Clarke County] does and I think my pitcher [Megan Emswiler] is as good as theirs. It’s just that when we play these good teams, we don’t have enough confidence to win,” said Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias.

Already this season, the Rams have lost to Madison County (6-0 in the Bull Run District prior to Monday’s games) and Central (11-5 prior to Monday).

Strasburg's Emily Melnikoff tries to complete a double play ball as she forces out Clarke County's Jade Feltner during third-inning action on Monday in Strasburg. Melnikoff overthrew the first baseman on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg had one chance to involve itself in the softball game, but Clarke County’s defense snuffed out the rally and provided Eagles starting pitcher Megan Hicks her first victory of the season in just her third outing.

Hicks, a freshman, was enjoying a 7-1 lead over Strasburg’s bats when the Rams finally got something cooking in the bottom of the fifth.

Ashley Yanego led the inning off with a walk — one of five allowed by Hicks — and moved to second on Carey Scott’s single over shortstop. However, the next batter, Cortney McDonald, lined out to Clarke third baseman Jamie Hoggatt.

Hoggatt gloved the fly ball and then fired to first to catch a Strasburg runner who was heading to second for the double play.

“That certainly didn’t help. We had trouble getting base runners on, and when you get them on, you have to do something with them,” Mathias said.

Strasburg second baseman Olivia Gochenour puts a tag on Clarke County's Jaime Hoggatt as she stretches a base hit during the fifth inning of Monday's game in Strasburg. Hoggatt was safe as she slid under the tag. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg scored a run in the inning, but it was not enough against the Eagles.

The Eagles’ Hicks is recovering from a knee injury suffered during the basketball season, which Clarke County coach Susan Grubbs said was a “torn ligament. … Fortunately, she can’t do anything worse to it by playing, so she’ll probably wait until the offseason to think about surgery.”

Hicks had her way with the Rams. She scattered three hits, although walking five. She struck out three, going 5 1/3 innings.

Her reliever, senior Sarah Miller, went the final 1 2/3 frames, striking out three.

“Megan is our starter, but she’s just getting her feet under her after being out with an injury. She pitched the other day and had a little work in the game before that, but this was basically her first start,” Grubbs said.

The Eagles scored in every inning but the first and sixth and the game was only contested once.

Clarke got on board first when Hoggatt opened the top of the second at the plate with a hit-by-pitch. A double by Haley Haun pushed Hoggatt home. Catcher Allie Hicks sacrificed Haun to third, then Miller’s base hit to left field scored her for the 2-0 lead.

Strasburg’s Olivia Gochenour started off the home half with a walk. She moved to second on a wild pitch and then came home when a Clarke County outfielder misplayed Mychala Brannon’s fly in left. After a walk, Hicks struck out Yanego to close out the inning.

Clarke County’s Kendall Benoit led off the third with a triple to right. She came home on a base hit by the Eagles’ Jade Feltner. Then, with two base runners on, Haun sent a fly to left which the Rams failed to catch. Another run scored.

“I counted four errors and I grade errors hard,” said Mathias. “You can’t win against a good team like this and make those errors.”

Clarke’s two runs in the third were enough to take command at 4-1.

Grubbs acknowledged that her team’s record thus far may be misleading after losing three games to 4A Sherando (twice) and James Wood, “but that the hard schedule is probably helping us bow, because we competed against strong teams.”

Mathias said her bunch will have to regroup.

“They just have to believe in themselves,” Mathias said.