Emswiler leads Strasburg past Wildcats

FRONT ROYAL — Megan Emswiler made her starting debut for Strasburg’s softball team Thursday night pay off by handcuffing Bull Run District foe Warren County as the Rams ran off a 13-2 victory over the Wildcats.

Emswiler, part of a two-person starting rotation for Strasburg (4-1 Bull Run, 5-1 overall), went the full seven innings on the Warren County diamond. She allowed just five hits and two walks, striking out five.

“She and Carey [Scott] are my two starting pitchers, so it’s kind of between them,” said Strasburg coach Suzanne Mathias, whose team has won two straight and three of its last four.

Emswiler, a senior, was touched up for just two runs in the third as she mastered the Wildcats, who fell to 2-2 overall and in district.

Her control, aided by a stinging curveball, was crucial in this contest between old rivals. Her opponent in the circle, Warren County’s Paige McLachlan, showed control problems for the second straight game. McLachlan, who nonetheless homered and doubled to left field to drive in the ‘Cats’ only two runs, walked seven Rams. She gave up 13 runs and all but 12 of the runs were earned.

“I struggled with my control at [Madison County, March 31], so this is something I’ve got to work on,” said McLachlan of her pitching. With a three-day break coming up due to the Easter holiday, she said, ‘I’ve got to meet this head-on and work on it.”

Warren County coach Justin Stock said McLachlan is forced to shoulder the team from the circle and batter’s box, but wants better defense from his squad, which opened its season at home.

“There were some balls in the outfield. Some in the infield we should field and backed [Paige] up,” Stock said.

McLaughlin is a returning first-team all-Conference 28 performer for Stock. She is currently chasing former Wildcat Sheryl Green’s all-time RBI record (77).

“If she has the kind of season she had last year, she’ll break it,” said Stock.

“I don’t really keep up with it,” McLachlan said.

Certainly, Strasburg’s hitters kept up with McLachlan’s right-handed offerings.

“You walk the first hitter and you see something early,” Stock said.

McLachlan failed to throw strikes to the first two Strasburg batters she faced, and, in fact, fell behind quickly as Olivia Gochenour delivered a bases-loaded single to score two Rams in the top of the first.

Gochenour was just one of the Rams that feasted on Thursday.

She collected three hits, one run scored and totaled four RBIs.

Strasburg cleanup hitter Nikki Killen rapped three doubles in five trips. She scored a run and drove in a run.

Lead-off hitter Carey Scott delivered two hits in three trips, including a triple. She walked twice, scored a run and drove in two more.

Reserve Katie Smoot slapped two hits, including a double, in two official trips to the plate. She also walked twice.

McLachlan was the hitting hero for Warren County. None of the other Wildcats earned extra bases. Her homer was No. 3 of the young season.

Gochenour put the Rams ahead 2-0 in the first.

Strasburg, which features hitting up-and-down its lineup, put up four more for a 6-0 lead after an inning-and-a-half. Emily Melnikoff and Ashley Yakego earned walks, then Mychala Brannon, who picked up two hits in five trips, loaded the bases with a single to right. Cortny McDonald and Allen drove home three runs on a double and single. McDonald scored the fourth run of the frame.

After a rare scoreless inning for Strasburg in the top of the third, Warren made its most serious rush of the balmy evening. Emma Wright singled just past the Rams shortstop Melnikoff, then was sacrificed to third by Arianna Smoot. This was when McLachlan torched an Emswiler offering over the 200-foot sign in dead-center field.

Those would be the only Warren County runs of the night.

Strasburg picked up two in the fourth when Emswiler reached base on an error. Killen’s double to left pushed the pitcher across the plate. After a walk to Emily Alexander, Gochenour’s base hit over second drove him Killen.

The Rams scored twice more in the sixth when Scott’s triple down the right-field line drove home Smoot and Mychala Brannon, who had reached base on a walk and single.

The Rams added security in the top of the seventh. Emswiler, who was 2-for-5 at the plate, singled and another double by Killen put runners on second and third. After an Alexander walk, Smoot delivered a two-base hit to left which drove home Emswiler, Killen and Alexander.

“We’re playing pretty good right now. I thought I had a good team, but I wasn’t sure until we got on the field and started playing,” said Mathias. “There’s lots to work on, but it’s nice to come to the break with these wins.”