Stead shuts down Strasburg

WOODSTOCK — Central High School pitcher Kirstina Stead seemed to save her best stuff for her arch-rival Friday night in Bull Run District/Conference 35 softball action.

The junior went the distance against Strasburg, giving up just two hits and striking out 18 in a 3-0 shutout of the Falcons’ Shenandoah County adversary.

Central improved to 6-7 overall and evened both its district (4-4) and conference (2-2) records before a good crowd at Falcon Park.

Strasburg fell to 4-9, 2-5 and 1-3, respectively.

“She really wanted this one, they all wanted this one. This was a rivalry and you could tell they were more focused,” said Central coach Sue Rubenstein.

“We came together tonight. We wanted this one as a team and we went out and got it,” said Stead, who improved her overall record to 4 wins and 4 losses on the season.

Stead had been pitching well this year. She had a 1.80 earned run average and showed 51 strikeouts in 43 2/3 innings before the Friday start.

Rubenstein had alternated Stead with Olivia Gochenour in previous games — the Falcons had played five games in the last eight days. In fact, Gochenour took the mound Thursday in a game at Clarke County, giving up one run. Stead relieved her, going three innings, striking out five and allowing three hits and three runs in a 4-1 conference/district loss to the Eagles.

“Maybe (getting the extra work on Thursday) it helped I don’t know,” said Stead.

Whatever was the prescription, the right hander fanned 18 of the last 22 Rams she faced. She struck out every Ram batter at least once.

“I felt really loose tonight, I had my riser working,” Stead said.

Stead had to begin her underhand fastball delivery at a lower point than a normal pitch. If not, the ball would come in too high for a “ball” call.

“And it seemed to be working better tonight than the other night,” she said.

“She’s had six strikeouts, seven strikeouts — here or there — but never anything like this,” said Rubenstein.

One difference between the two nights of softball is that Central got base runners on quickly and scored in the first inning. Runs have been at a premium of late, as the Falcons picked up just one in an April 18 conference/district loss to Madison County and just a lone score against Clarke.

At Central, the Falcons jumped on the Rams early.

In the home half of the first, Shennan Waldron singled and then stole what would be the first of three bases. Autumn Shelton drove Waldron to third on a slam down the third base line.

So, with one out and runners on the corners, Alex Mantz polled a ball in the left center power alley scoring both Waldron and Shelton for the 2-0 advantage. Lexi Rau doubled into the right center power alley for a triple and then came home on a sacrifice by Kylie Stottlemyer in the bottom of the fourth.

“That made a big difference,” said Stead, “when we score runs early, everybody feels a lot better.”

“We usually score our runs in the early innings, so that was good,” said Waldron, who stroked two singles in two official at bats.

With the two-run lead, Stead was salty. She had struck out seven of nine Rams by inning three, 10 of 12 by the fourth, and she fanned 12 of 14 by the fifth. She had whiffed 15 of 18 by the sixth and then notched two more strikeouts in Strasburg’s final at bat.

“It helps a lot when you can score some runs and move some people around. We started looking at last season’s statistics and realized that Shennan Waldron was more productive from the leadoff spot in 2016,” Rubenstein said. “So tonight, we decided to move her up in the order.”

“This is the first time I’ve hit lead off this season. We changed it around tonight,” said Waldron.

“I think this will bring us together because we know what we can do toward the end of the season,” Stead said.

Contact Jim Laise at sports@nvdaily.com
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Girls softball

Falcons 3, Rams 0

Score by innings

Strasburg 000 000 0-0 2 3

Central 200 100 X-3 6 0

Pitchers

Strasburg-Foltz and McDonald

Central-Stead and Mantz

WP-Stead (4-4). LP–Foltz