Bowers, Rams win Region 2A East title
STRASBURG — For the second straight night, Strasburg got stellar pitching and opportunistic hitting for a consecutive 4-0 victory.
This one, played at home at First Bank Park, was good enough for the Rams’ second straight 2A East region championship over Maggie Walker Governors School (13-7). Strasburg, which rose to the 2014 Group 2A state championship, also toppled Maggie Walker in last year’s Region 2A East semifinal.
The four-run victory puts the Rams (25-1), winners of five in a row, into the state final four for the second straight year. Like the home team, the visitors had clinched a place in the 2A semifinals before Saturday’s game by virtue of what they had done earlier in the week.
Strasburg will play Lebanon Friday, 1 p.m., at Radford University. Meanwhile, Maggie Walker will go against defending state champ Virginia High at 10 a.m.
The Dragons topped Nottoway 7-1 Friday morning and then rode a bus from hometown Richmond to knock off George Mason in Falls Church later in the day, 8-6.
Strasburg took the measure of King William on the road 4-0 by the complete-game three-hitter belonging to Garrett Richards.
At the Rams’ ballpark, it was Ryan Bowers’ turn.
“We got two outstanding pitching performances in the last two games,” Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said. “I thought it was tough to top what Garrett did Friday, but Ryan Bowers may have been just a little better. He’s been good for us all year, but he’s been particularly strong in his most recent outings.
In his previous outing, Bowers come in early in relief, then presided over a 2-1 victory over George Mason on May 28 in the Conference 35 championship game.
This time, the sophomore went the complete seven innings, striking out six, walking five, allowing two hits and giving up two wild pitches and five bases on balls.
“I’ve learned to pitch around the walks. That’s just something you have to work on with maturity,” Bowers said. “I tried not to let it affect me tonight.”
Just to prove it, Bowers struck out the side in the top of the seventh.
“He’s our third starter, and it’s a luxury to have that kind of pitchers as your number three,” Smoot said. “We pitched very well from March to June and recently our defense has been strong.”
Just like they had at King William, Strasburg jumped on Maggie Walker starter James Wyatt early. In fact, the Rams led 2-0 when Dragon coach Meade Lanhorne lifted Wyatt with only one out in the first inning.
Reliever Henry Haas switched places with Wyatt, sending the latter to the outfield, but the Rams got a run in the second and another in the fourth and Bowers made it hold up.
After Wyatt had walked four, Haas just gave up one base-on-balls. However, Ram leadoff hitter Noah St. Clair homered over the center-field fence and Adam Miller produced two doubles against Haas. In all, Strasburg had five hits.
“Adam Miller is an example of a younger guy who bided his time on the junior varsity and has worked himself into a valuable player on the roster,” Smoot said. “Our program is built around the seniors, but they help the underclassmen understand what’s important to the program, and it was worked.”
St. Clair led off the first with a walk, but was rubbed out on a forced infield out. On base came Ryan Smoot on a fielder’s choice. Ryan Smoot stole second, and, after teammates Josh Pritchett and Nate Butler drew walks, Mark Smoot singled. On the ball, Maggie Walker committed an error and the Rams plated two runs.
Richards, the designated hitter, doubled to right to lead off the home half of the second and later came home on a fielder’s choice for the 3-0 lead. The St. Clair homer easily cleared the center-field fence in the bottom of the fourth.
The Dragons got a runner on third in the third and put a runner on first to lead off the inning only once.
The Rams executed one double-play and second-baseman Cory Clinedinst threw out a runner at home in the sixth.
This was the third game in two days for the Dragons, who went home after their traveling twilight doubleheader Friday, only to hit the pike for Strasburg on Saturday.
“It was good for us to get [Wyatt and Haas] some work,” Maggie Walker coach Meade Lanhorne said. “They’re decidedly lower in the starter rotation, so it was good to get out there. After playing so many games in recent days, we had to rest our first two or three guys.”
The Rams’ bus broke down in route to King William Friday and they returned early Saturday to play the regional championship before the home folks.
“We’re a family. We have fun off the field after taking care of business off it,” Bowers said.