STRASBURG – Central’s softball team has seen every team in the Bull Run District, and head coach Scott Mongold is hoping the Falcons’ first run-in with Clarke County last week was the start of something.

Central avoided then what Mongold said would have been a demoralizing loss to an Eagles squad that entered Tuesday still hunting its first district win by answering Clarke County’s five-run top of the seventh with a pair of runs in a walk-off 6-5 win. A loss to Moorefield (West Virginia) followed, but the Falcons’ return to district action on Monday night netted them another much-needed win.

That one came against county rival Strasburg, which entered the contest in second place in the Bull Run. Central up-ended the Rams in a 9-4 win on the road, climbing from fourth to third in the district standings and dropping Strasburg to fourth place heading into Tuesday’s slate of games.

Monday’s contest marked the halfway point for Central in its Bull Run District schedule, and Mongold said afterward that the game was as “must-win” as a midseason contest could be.

“It started in the game against Clarke when they came back and went ahead in the seventh inning on us,” Mongold, whose team traveled to district leader Madison County on Tuesday, said after Monday’s win. “That’s just a game that, me and (assistant coach Mike Hunt) talked about it; if you lose that, you lose the season. You’re done because the confidence level just goes down. And this was a big one for us. Not gonna lie to you and tell you that it isn’t. This was a big win for us.”

To make Monday’s performance even more encouraging, Mongold called it the most complete effort the Falcons – who were 7-7 overall and 3-2 in the district after the win – have pieced together this season.

Central banged out 10 hits against the Rams, committed just one error and got the first complete game of the season from sophomore pitcher Alicia Ball, who also delivered the Falcons’ biggest blow at the plate with her three-run double that capped a five-run second inning.

Seven of Central’s nine starters got at least one hit in the victory, and five Falcons – junior leadoff hitter Chloee Burton (three hits, two RBIs), sophomore Ivy Mongold, Ball, junior Katlynn Orndorff (two hits, walk) and junior Olivia Wightman – tallied at least one RBI.

“I think we’re figuring it out. I think the lineup’s getting about where we need it to be,” Mongold said. “I’m a big changer, I like to move stuff. About one time through the district and you’ve gotta settle down, it’s gonna be what it is. I think we’re pretty happy with the way things are, and we’ll see how the rest of it plays out.”

Ball, who allowed four earned runs on six hits and nine walks while striking out eight, will need to continue to build on Monday’s performance to help power the Falcons from the circle. Mongold said Ball had been running out of gas around the fifth or sixth inning in her outings before Monday, and against the Rams, Ball threw 150 pitches.

“Hopefully, she’s got her legs underneath of her and we can depend on her to win some seven-inning ballgames,” Mongold said.

Missed chances summed up Strasburg’s end of Monday night’s game. The Rams, who entered the contest holding the tiebreaker over Rappahannock County for second place in the district, missed an opportunity to take a firmer grip on the spot behind Madison County while stranding 10 baserunners and committing three errors.

Seven Rams reached base safely in the loss – junior catcher Kaitlyn Capps (double, single, two walks) and senior outfielder Kassy Bly led the way with two hits apiece – but just two – Capps and Delainey Stickley – had RBIs.

Strasburg also made a couple of poor decisions in the field against Central, had a runner called out on appeal at third base for leaving the bag early on a would-be sacrifice fly to end the fourth inning and left the bases loaded without scoring in a 6-4 game in the fifth.

“They’ve gotta be respectful of each other and that’s what it’s gotta come down to,” Strasburg head coach Suzanne Mathias-Carter said. “That’s where some of our issue is right now. Once they figure that part out we’ll be fine.”

The Rams, who started the season 1-7, had made a turn in a better direction ahead of Monday’s contest. Strasburg entered the night having won four of its last six games, the two losses in that span coming to Madison County and defending Class 2 state champ Page County.

“We do things well in spurts. That’s the thing,” Mathias-Carter said. “We’ll play really good defense one game and then the next game we’ll struggle a little bit and it’ll come down to just focus with it. And the same with hitting. We’ll come out and we’ll just rock the ball and then other games we’ll stand there and look at strike three. Again, it’s a mindset and your mindset has to be here fully. It can’t be here partially. When they figure that out then they’ll get these games.”

– Contact Brad Fauber at bfauber@nvdaily.com