Bowers pitches Rams past Wildcats

STRASBURG — Strasburg turned to a sophomore to keep its perfect record intact on Wednesday night — and Ryan Bowers responded in a big way.

Bowers threw a complete-game four-hitter to help lead the Rams to a 4-2 victory over Warren County in Bull Run District baseball action.

“It means a lot,” Bowers said of his performance. “It was a big win. We needed it.”

Warren County started its No. 1 pitcher John Reith, while the Rams turned to Bowers, their No. 3 starter. It was only Bowers’ third start of the season.

Bowers admitted he was a little nervous to start the game, and the Wildcats were able to take an early lead.

Warren County’s Robert Rutherford reached on an error, and Eric Baker followed with a single in the top of the first. Austin King’s sacrifice fly gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

Strasburg (15-0, 12-0 Bull Run) scored all four of its runs in the bottom of the second off Reith, but used only three hits to do it.

The Rams sent nine batters to the plate. Mark Smoot reached on an error, and Adam Miller followed with a single. Brian Scholten reached on a bunt single, and a throwing error on the play allowed Smoot to score to tie the game.

With one out, a Garrett Richards bunt single drove in another run to put the Rams up 2-0.

“Defensive execution hurt us — we’re way better than that,” Warren County coach Vernon Mathews said. “We basically gave them two or three of those runs. It might not show up as unearned runs because we just weren’t where we needed to be. We blew two coverages right there.”

Noah St. Clair was hit by a pitch from Reith to load the bases, and then Ryan Smoot was also plunked to give the Rams a 3-1 edge. A sacrifice fly by Josh Pritchett extended the lead to 4-1.

The Rams had three hits in the inning, but that was all they had for the entire game.

“We executed a few things in the short game that helped us, and we got them to misplay a couple balls,” Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said. “Other than that, offensively we were not real good.”

The Wildcats (9-6, 7-6 Bull Run) had a golden opportunity in the top of the third inning. Joseph Rutherford led off with a single, and Robert Rutherford was hit by a pitch. Baker then reached on an error to load the bases with no outs.

King’s sacrifice fly cut the lead to 4-2. Bowers was then able to strike out Hunter Wines, and ended the inning by picking off a runner at second to end the inning.

“It was pressure, it really was,” Bowers said of the situation. “After I got the second out, it kind of relieved me. Then once I got the third one — it was all good from there.”

Bowers said Jeff Smoot also came out to talk to him during the inning and it helped to settle him down.

The rest of the game Bowers looked very sharp. He struck out five and allowed only one hit, a bunt single, in the last four innings.

“He was outstanding. In fact he was, from our standpoint, the story of the game,” Jeff Smoot said. “He had to elevate his game tonight and he did.”

The Wildcats stranded four runners in the first three innings. They were also either picked off or caught stealing three times during the game, including twice to end innings.

“When their pitcher was struggling, we didn’t take advantage of it,” Mathews said. “I thought Bowers in his [last four innings] threw really well. Not taking advantage of his struggles when we had a chance in the first three innings really hurt us.”

Mathews turned to Stephen Johnson in the third inning, and Johnson performed well on the mound. He didn’t allow any Strasburg hits and struck out six in four innings of work. Mathews said he was happy with how both Reith and Johnson threw. He said that with four games this week they decided to only have Reith throw two innings so that he can come back again on Friday against William Monroe.

The Wildcats have four games this week, including hosting Madison County today.

“I told them at the end, you got to wipe it off, keep your heads up, go home and get some rest,” Mathews said. “And we get to come right back out and get after it tomorrow.”

Strasburg is in a similar position. The Rams play at Central on Friday, and then play George Mason twice next week and travel to Clarke County as well to end the regular season.

“It’s a tough couple weeks right here, but we’ll find out what we’re made of at this point,” Jeff Smoot said. “We’ve been able to answer the bell. Whether we can keep answering or not remains to be seen.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com