Rams come up short in loss to Dragons

Strasburg's Kaitlyn Capps tags out William Monroe's Morgan Lam on this second base steal attempt during fourth inning softball action Monday night at Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – Every time William Monroe High School’s softball team struck for a run on Monday evening, Strasburg delivered an immediate response. The Rams’ final answer to the Green Dragons’ last big blow, however, came up a couple runs short.

William Monroe took a three-run lead into the bottom of the seventh inning after Alexis Ray’s two-run home run in the top half of the inning, then survived a bases-loaded jam in the final inning as the Dragons picked up a 9-7 Bull Run District victory on the road.

In addition to stranding the winning run on base in the seventh inning, Strasburg committed six errors in the loss, including three in a five-run fifth inning that gave the Dragons the lead for good.

“We just had that one bad inning where we let them score five,” Rams head coach Suzanne Mathias said. “… We’re playing better. We’ve just got to put a complete seven (innings together). Just frustrated with that one inning, the fifth inning.”

Strasburg (6-11, 4-7 Bull Run) countered single runs from Monroe (9-8, 6-5) in the first and third innings with four total runs in those innings to take a 4-2 lead but gave that advantage back to the Dragons in the fifth.

Strasburg first baseman Emily Smoot tries to pick off William Monroe's Alexis Ray at first base during second inning softball action Monday night in Strasburg. Ray was safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

The inning began with back-to-back infield singles from Lacey and Kaitlyn Beale, who each moved into scoring position through a combination of an error and Kaitlyn’s stolen base.

A one-out, two-run single from Jessica Ford tied the game at 4-4 before a throwing error plated the sophomore for the go-ahead run. Ray gave the Dragons a two-run lead with an RBI single, and a second throwing error after confusion on a dropped third strike allowed another run to score for a 7-4 Monroe lead before the inning finally came to an end.

Mathias said errors have been an issue for the Rams all season long.

“And it’s been hit or miss. We either have a lot or we have very few, and tonight just unfortunately it was a lot,” she said. “We battled back, had a chance to tie it there, even take the lead, but it just wasn’t meant to be as far as getting the hit.”

The Rams came right back with two runs in the bottom of the fifth after Madi Foltz and Taylor Bowers led off with a single and double, respectively, and both scored on an errant pickoff throw to second base with no outs.

William Monroe's Alexis Wayland prepares to tag out Strasburg's Morgan Richards at home plate during third inning softball action Monday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

Another costly Strasburg error in the top of the seventh, however, on a routine grounder with two outs extended the inning and set up Ray’s two-run shot to right-center off Rams starting pitcher Katie Smoot that gave Monroe a 9-6 lead.

Strasburg got a run back when Foltz, who reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the seventh, scored on Hailie Lamb’s wild pitch with one out, but the Rams popped out to the pitcher and grounded out to second on consecutive pitches with the bases loaded to end the game.

“It’s frustrating because we’ve left a lot of people on base the last three games, I think,” Mathias said. “And I told them, you’ve gotta execute at that point and get the runners in. If people are doing their jobs and getting on with less than two outs, you’ve gotta score them.”

Foltz and Bowers (2-for-3) set the table multiple times from the top of the order for the Rams in the loss, as they combined to reach base seven times in eight plate appearances. They scored six of Strasburg’s seven runs.

Rams sophomore Morgan Richards cashed in on one such scoring opportunity with a two-run single in the third inning, while freshman Kaitlyn Capps (two RBIs) drove in runs on a single and a triple in the first and third innings and led the Rams with three hits.

Strasburg first baseman Emily Smoot focuses on catching the ball as William Monroe's Alexis Wayland is forced out at first base during third inning action Monday night in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“She’s come up and played well as a freshman,” Mathias said of Capps, who has emerged as Strasburg’s biggest run producer this spring. “She just has no fear, all the way around. I can throw her anywhere. She’s caught. She’s played third. She’s played short. She’s played second. She’s just one that I can say, ‘Hey Kaitlyn, go do this,’ and she’s gonna go do it.”

Smoot pitched the complete game for the Rams and allowed four earned runs while walking one, hitting another and striking out three.

William Monroe outhit the Rams 10-8 in the victory and got two hits each from Lacey Beale (two runs), Kaitlyn Beale (two runs), Ford (three RBIs) and Ray (three RBIs).

The Dragons also committed four errors behind Lamb, who tossed all seven innings and allowed four earned runs while walking two, hitting three batters and striking out five.

“I think (the Rams) are younger than they were last year,” Dragons head coach Greg Breeden said, “but you can see the ability there. You really can. I told (my players) coming up here, even though the first time we beat them 13-0 (on April 11), this time I said I’m scared to death of them because you could see them wanting to work and improve. … Tonight obviously they’ve improved 100 percent more than we’ve improved. It’s a struggle right now for our team to find their identity.”

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

Strasburg third baseman Emily Reinhardt, left, collides with Cortney McDonald near home plate after the two try to run down a foul ball during third inning action against William Monroe in Strasburg. The ball hit the ground after the two collided. Rich Cooley/Daily

Strasburg's Emily Reinhardt is forced out at second base as William Monroe's Alexis Lam attempts to turn a double play ball in the fourth inning Monday night in Strasburg. The runner at first was safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily