Rams muster little offense loss

STRASBURG – Goochland High School baseball coach Wes Farkas said the Bulldogs have been riding solid pitching all season long. Strasburg was the latest team to fall victim in Wednesday night’s Region 2A East tournament semifinal game at First Bank Park.

Goochland’s duo of Tanner Bradshaw and Nic Norman held the Rams to just four hits as Strasburg failed to muster enough run support for starter Nate Butler in a 4-1 loss that ended the Rams’ season.

The Bulldogs, who locked up a Group 2A state tournament berth with the win, will play at Maggie Walker on Friday for the regional championship.

“They are a good team and they’re also a good team that played well,” Strasburg coach Jeff Smoot said. “And they did run two solid arms out there at us, both of which were able to make a pitch when they needed to. To a great extent we’ve just got to tip our hats to them. Collectively they were pretty good and those two arms were pretty good.”

Though two of Strasburg’s (15-9) four hits were doubles, the Rams managed multiple hits in just one inning while stranding four baserunners, three in scoring position. Strasburg also worked just one walk against a Goochland pitching staff that had thrown five straight shutouts heading into Wednesday’s game.

It was Strasburg that took the first lead in a game that turned into a pitchers’ duel early, as Butler stranded one Goochland baserunner in each of the first four innings while keeping the Bulldogs (20-3) off the scoreboard.

Rams senior Eric Reynolds gave Strasburg a 1-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the fourth when he jumped on the first pitch from Bradshaw and lined an RBI single into left field to score Josh Pritchett, who doubled to right-center with one out.

“The pitch before (in my first at-bat) he threw it in there just a little slower than I thought and I just circled on it a little differently. The second time he threw it and it was the same exact pitch,” said Reynolds, who was 2-for-3 with a stolen base. “… I squared it up and drove (Pritchett) in. I mean it was great, but it wasn’t enough to win this one.”

Strasburg’s lead was brief, however, as Goochland came back with the tying run with a two-out rally in the top of the fifth. Bulldogs leadoff man John King got the spurt started with a two-out single, and senior Andrew Harcum – who went 4-for-4 with three doubles – lined an RBI double to left-center to even the score at 1-1.

Rams right fielder Austin Miller made a spectacular diving catch on a sinking liner to prevent further damage in the fifth but the frame began a late-inning scoring surge that saw the Bulldogs score two more runs in the sixth and another in the seventh.

“I could tell all of us, we kind of were excited we got the run and then they jumped on us like that,” Reynolds said. “I mean we’ve had that before but this team, they can hit the ball. At first they were struggling a little bit … but they jumped on us quick and they got their hitting rolling before we got it rolling.”

Strasburg never would get in a rhythm to back Butler despite putting the leadoff man in each of the last two innings against Norman, who came on to pitch for Goochland to start the sixth.

Butler went the full seven innings for Strasburg while allowing three earned runs on seven hits, three walks and four strikeouts in his final high school game.

“He pitched his guts out out there for us tonight,” Smoot said of Butler, who has been battling an injury. “Not healthy, he wanted the ball, gave us everything that he had. I wish we could’ve got him a few more runs. Obviously he was able to pitch to contact and pitching starts with that, but mostly I just thought he pitched his guts out out there for us tonight.”

Goochland gained the lead in the sixth inning on Coleman Duty’s RBI triple and a Strasburg error, and Scott Carter’s sacrifice fly in the seventh made it 4-1.

Bradshaw pitched five innings for the Bulldogs while allowing an earned run on three hits, a hit batter and four strikeouts. The left-handed Norman worked the last two innings surrendering a single and a walk against three strikeouts.

“Our guys pushed through,” Goochland coach Wes Farkas said. “I felt like the heart of their lineup really hit (Bradshaw and Norman) well, we just made some good defensive plays and just enough off-speed (pitches) that they kind of didn’t square up. A couple deep balls I was a little concerned about but I felt like we adjusted well.”

Strasburg finished one win shy of its third straight state tournament appearance, and Smoot commended the Rams’ fortitude during a season that featured a few untimely injuries and was further complicated by an incident involving the Strasburg’s boys basketball team that rocked the school and led to disciplinary action.

“Obviously our players, our school, our community have been through a lot. Those guys, the guys in this dugout, I mean, they’ve been wounded,” Smoot said. “We had to overcome those wounds, and I think it was tougher because some of the wounds were from friendly fire, to be quite honest. And that’s even more difficult. … We’ve had to get up off the canvas a few times. We’ve had a few situations where in the course of the year we did not play well and obviously at the beginning, and a few other times, we kind of had to re-evaluate ourselves and go back to work and figure out how to get a little better. But they’ve given us everything they can. We did not walk out of here tonight with our tank half full, I can tell you. We about emptied the tank.”

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