Mistakes continue to plague Rams in extra-inning loss to Madison

STRASBURG – Too many errors and too few timely hits have plagued Strasburg High School’s baseball team for most of the season. Those two issues burned the Rams again on Thursday night.

Strasburg blew a two-run lead in the top of the seventh inning against visiting Madison County behind a pair of costly errors, committed another fielding blunder in the top of the eighth and fell to the Mountaineers 9-8 in extra innings of the matchup between two Conference 35 teams.

The Rams, who averaged 3.3 errors per game heading into Thursday, committed six more in the loss to Madison and left 11 runners on base.

“I’ll give it to you, it’s errors,” Rams head coach Joe Bauserman said of his team’s second straight loss. “Mental mistakes. Missed signs. Missed signals. Mentally not doing the right things. I mean we had a couple good games, a couple good defensive games, but we were lucky to be in this game. Lucky.”

Trailing by one heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Strasburg (6-4, 2-1 Conference 35) rallied for a trio of runs to take a 6-4 lead into the top of the seventh.

Rams freshman reliever Trevor Sager worked himself into trouble by dealing a four-pitch walk and hitting a batter on an 0-2 pitch to put two on for Madison County (6-5, 3-0) to lead off the seventh. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, a sacrifice fly from No. 9 hitter Jon Miller pulled the Mountaineers within a run with two outs.

A double error on a routine grounder to short allowed the tying run to score one batter later.

“We threw Trevor out there, he’s a freshman and I thought he pitched pretty well,” Bauserman said of Sager, who relieved starter Cory Clinedinst to start the fifth inning and and tossed four frames while allowing five runs (two earned) on a hit, six walks (two intentional), a hit batter and three strikeouts.

“I thought Cory didn’t have his best stuff but he battled. He got deep in his pitch count so we pulled him and put Trevor in there. Trevor did a great job, we just couldn’t back him up.”

Madison regained the lead with three more runs in the eighth. Eli Estes and Kobi Alexander reached safely to start the inning on a single and a dropped third strike, respectively, before the Rams chose to load the bases with an intentional walk.

An RBI sacrifice fly from Chase Berry gave the Mountaineers the lead, and another Strasburg error on a grounder to second plated two more runs before the inning finally came to an end.

Those final two unearned runs proved to be the difference makers for Madison County, as reliever Hunter Smith served up a two-run home run to Strasburg junior Justin King with one out in the bottom of the eighth before picking up a strikeout to escape a bases-loaded jam and end the game.

“He was able to put that home run behind him,” Madison head coach David Londrey said of Smith, who allowed two earned runs on a hit, four walks and three strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings to pick up the win. “You’re always gonna have a close game with Strasburg. I mean it just is what it is. You always tip your hat to Strasburg, golly day. Beating them is always an accomplishment.”

Strasburg, which gained an early 1-0 lead on Josh Pritchett’s RBI single in the first inning, fell into a 4-1 hole after giving up single runs in the second and third innings and two more in a fourth frame marred by three errors.

The Rams got two runs back in the bottom of the fourth on Cameron Harmon’s RBI on a grounder that was misplayed for an error that allowed a second run to score.

Strasburg gained its second lead of the night in the sixth, when the Rams scored three runs on RBI singles from Austin Miller (three runs scored) and King (2-for-4, three RBIs) and a wild pitch that scored freshman catcher Corey Keller (1-for-1, three walks).

Of the 11 baserunners the Rams left on base in the loss, eight were stranded in scoring position.

“We played poorly at the end of the day,” Bauserman said. “There’s nothing to say. Mentally we did not come ready to play today.”

Clinedinst lasted just four innings on the mound for Strasburg, during which he allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits, two walks, three hit batters and six strikeouts.

Estes started for the Mountaineers and allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits, six walks and four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.

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