Solid group effort on mound sends Rams over Falcons

STRASBURG – Strasburg’s baseball team wasn’t particularly sharp at the plate or in the field against rival Central on Saturday evening at First Bank Park. But the Rams were solid on the mound.

Four different pitchers combined to limit the Falcons to four hits, and the Rams backed that effort with a three-run second inning as Strasburg picked up a 5-2 Bull Run District victory.

“We pitched well,” said Rams coach Jeff Smoot, whose team improved to 6-0 with the win. “… What we did was the plan we had going in and I think every guy that we ran out there pitched very well. We didn’t always play as good defense as we needed to and, quite frankly, left some runs out there that we would’ve liked to have gotten across the plate.”

Strasburg, which hadn’t played a game in over a week, took a committee approach on the mound as Mark Smoot, Garrett Richards (three innings pitched, one hit, two walks, two strikeouts), Ryan Bowers and Ryan Smoot each made pitching appearances. Bowers, who pitched 1.2 innings, allowed both of Central’s runs on two hits and two walks, although only one of those runs was earned.

The Rams, who stranded eight baserunners and had only five hits in the win, left two runners on in the first inning against Central (3-5) starting pitcher Zach Hamman but plated three runs in the bottom of the second.

Bowers got the rally started when he planted a 2-2 fastball from Hamman over the fence in left field for his first home run of the season to give the Rams a 1-0 lead.

“I got a little nervous at the end when it was two strikes,” said Bowers, who also reached base twice on a pair of walks. “I always get nervous and it’s hard but I just pulled through and I got it for us.”

Senior Noah St. Clair extended the Rams’ lead with a two-out RBI double to left-center that scored Brian Scholten (2-for-2). St. Clair then scored on a Falcons error on Ryan Smoot’s grounder to give Strasburg a 3-0 lead.

The Rams added a run in the fourth inning when Ryan Smoot – who reached base three times on two hit-by-pitches and a walk – scored on a wild pitch.

Strasburg scored again in the fifth inning on Adam Miller’s RBI fielder’s choice after the Rams loaded the bases with one out, but the inning ended when pinch-runner Austin Miller got caught in a rundown between third base and home after trying to advance following a poor throw on Central’s attempt to turn a double play.

“We were able to do enough offensively to get a run here and run there,” Jeff Smoot said.

“We felt like we could execute a little better than what we did. First inning we don’t get a good bunt down, miss a sign, strike out looking. We’ve got to be able to do better than that. You just can’t make those kinds of mistakes and be very good offensively.”

Central, who left the bases loaded in the fourth inning, answered back with two runs in the top of the sixth inning off Bowers. The Falcons loaded the bases with one out after a Strasburg error (one of three for the Rams in the game), a single by Corey Sibert and a walk to Cody Polk, and Hamman drove in two runs with a double on a sharp grounder down the third-base line.

The Falcons’ chance for more runs in the sixth inning took a hit, however, when Polk was ruled out trying to advance to third base on Hamman’s double. Polk appeared to slide in well ahead of St. Clair’s throw from left field but Central coach Donn Foltz said the umpire ruled Polk had slid off the base.

“They just took advantage of opportunities more than we did,” Foltz said. “We had some opportunities and we didn’t. We did a lot of good things defensively that, for as young as we are, I was very happy with, like getting out of some situations.

“[Strasburg] is probably the top team in the district. [We] didn’t back down. They had a chance where they could’ve folded and they kept going, so that means a lot.”

Central had a chance to add more runs in the top of the seventh inning but the Falcons stranded two runners in scoring position as Ryan Smoot retired the only batter he faced after coming in to relieve Bowers.

Hamman allowed only four hits in the losing effort but he walked three and hit five batters over his 4.1 innings of work.

“He wasn’t as sharp as he’s been but when you’re playing very disciplined team like Strasburg it’s even harder to pitch because they are well schooled and you’ve got to be perfect,” Foltz said.

Freshman Jared Rice allowed a hit and a walk while striking out two over the final 1.2 innings for Central. Leadoff man Hank Hoover went 2-for-4 with a double for the Falcons.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com