NEW MARKET — At times this season Stonewall Jackson’s baseball team has had trouble keeping its head up when it was down. On Tuesday, night the youthful Generals showed some growth.
They rallied from an early deficit to beat Stuarts Draft, 7-5, in Shenandoah District action. Stonewall Jackson coach Jeremy Knight said he was pleased with how his young squad, featuring a combined six freshman and sophomores in the starting lineup, responded to some adversity.
“I saw the growth in that we got down early and we didn’t panic,” Knight said. “We didn’t turn a molehill into a mountain. We kept it close and we just kept fighting. We kept grinding. That’s what every night is in this district — it’s a grind. Now we’ve experienced it all. We’ve lost close games. We’ve lost big. We’ve won big and now we’ve won close. So we’ve experienced every scenario you can.”
The Cougars took an early lead. Henry Cooke singled with one out in the top of the first. Cooke stole second and Boogie Saunders then drew a walk from Stonewall Jackson freshman starting pitcher Adrian Chaparro-Vann. With two outs, a two-run single by Wayne Fletcher gave the Cougars a 2-0 edge.
The Cougars added a run in the top of the second. Trip Christian reached on a two-base error. With one out, Brady Ward drew a walk from Chaparro-Vann. Stuarts Draft senior Aric Gutt was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
With two outs, Saunders was hit by a pitch from Chaparro-Vann to score a run and extend the lead to 3-0. Rodgers then flew out to end the inning.
The Generals came right back in the bottom of the second. Austin Ritchie singled, went to second on a wild pitch and stole third with no outs. Tyler Dellinger tripled off Stuarts Draft starting pitcher Rodgers to cut the lead to 3-1.
Dellinger, who went 3-for-3 with three RBIs said he felt good at the plate against the Cougars.
“In (batting practice) I felt good,” Dellinger said. “I felt like I hit the ball the hardest I have all season. My hitting coach has been fixing my swing all season and so have the coaches here. And I got down in that first at-bat 0-2 and I just shortened up and put the ball in play. That’s been my motto all year when I’ve gotten down in at-bats. And it felt good off the bat and it just fell in.”
With one out, Nick Foltz’s RBI single cut the deficit to 3-2. Chase Streett reached on an error and Foltz scored on a sacrifice fly by Chaparro-Vann to tie the game at 3-3.
The Generals took the lead in the bottom of the third. Stonewall Jackson’s Brayden Hovatter reached on an infield single with one out. He stole second and scored on an RBI double by Jaden Click.
“I got down 0-2, real early,” Click said. “So I just had to battle back. And I fouled a couple of pitches off there. I finally got a fastball that I was able to square and drive in a run. That’s just what we got to do every game. That’s what we did tonight.”
Ritchie reached on a two-base error putting runners at second and third. Dellinger followed with a two-run single to stretch the lead to 6-3. Dellinger said that the Generals moved their lineup around Tuesday and he felt like that really helped the team out.
“Definitely the lineup change tonight helped us put up more runs,” he said. “Props (to the coaching staff) tonight for switching it up. The lineup change really made a difference tonight. When our hitting’s on, we can play with any team. We got hitting up and down the whole entire lineup from top to bottom. All of the guys can hit in tough situations and it’s just that we got to play together as a team. And everybody hit well tonight.”
The Cougars responded with a run in the top of the fourth. Stuarts Draft’s Aaron Bradley, who came into the game to relieve Rodgers on the mound, tripled to deep right field to start the inning. Bradley scored on an RBI groundout by Gutt to cut the deficit to 6-4.
The Cougars (3-4, 0-4 Shenandoah) scored another run in the top of the fifth with a little help from the Generals. Rodgers led off with a single, moved to second on a groundout and to third on a passed ball. With two outs, he scored when Christian reached on an error to cut the lead to 6-5.
Stonewall Jackson (4-4, 3-3 Shenandoah) answered in the bottom of the fifth with a run. With two outs, Dellinger singled and scored on Logan Ritchie’s triple to increase the lead to 7-5.
Chaparro-Vann pitched five innings, allowing just four hits and striking out seven with three walks.
“I think he was a little tight at the beginning,” Knight said. “Once he settled in, he started finding the zone and finding his pitches. It seemed like the longer he went, the harder he threw, which is usually indicative of cold weather and everything else. He kept grinding, kept fighting. And that’s all we can ask.”
Austin Ritchie pitched the last two innings, allowing just two hits, and picking up the save.
Knight said he was pleased with the Generals’ defense, despite making three errors. Knight said they made some changes defensively which he thinks has improved the team.
The Generals were led offensively by Dellinger with a triple and two singles. Each starter reached base at least once.
Stonewall Jackson plays at second-place East Rockingham on Friday. Knight said the win over the Cougars was a big one for his team.
“It gets us back in the groove, we’re back to .500 now again,” he said. “We were coming off a tough loss at (first-place) Page (County) where we really didn’t show up very well at all. I told the team I didn’t believe they were eight runs better than us. But we had one of those games where one thing happened and then everything happened. So it was good to get back into the win column, get some momentum going into another tough one at East Rock on Friday. East Rock’s up there, too (in the district standings) — so there’s no nights off.”