STRASBURG -- Many of the struggles that plagued Strasburg’s baseball team against Page County on Wednesday night were ones fairly typical of a season opener. But if the Rams are going to be competitive in 2019, they’ll have to pitch better than what they showed against the defending Class 2 state champs.
Three Strasburg pitchers combined to deal 12 walks and two hit batters in a 14-4 loss at First Bank Park. Free passes with the bases loaded accounted for four runs for Page County, which needed only eight hits to run its record to 2-0 to start the season.
“We’ve gotta cut them down,” Rams head coach Joe Bauserman said of the walks after the loss. “We played well, hung with them for a while. But if we don’t start pitching better we’re never gonna win ballgames. We’ve got a senior, we’ve got two juniors and a sophomore as our rotation. They’re our four guys that have pitched, and that’s who we’ve got to go with. We’ll keep working them and they just know they’ve gotta make some pitches and they’ve gotta trust their stuff and make the defense work.”
Three of those pitchers that Strasburg will lean on this spring -- sophomore Justin Day, junior Chase Hart and senior Cameron Harmon -- saw action on the mound on Wednesday, and each struggled with his command.
Day, a left-hander who got the start and allowed six runs on three hits, four walks and two strikeouts in 3 ⅔ innings, allowed just one run through the first three innings on a solo home run by Noah Hammer to lead off the second inning but hit a snag in a six-run fourth inning.
Page County junior Tristan Gordon tagged Day for another solo shot to dead center with one out in the fourth inning, and the Strasburg sophomore saw his outing come to an end when he walked three straight batters later in the frame, the last pushing another Panther run across.
Hart came on in relief and immediately dealt a four-pitch walk to plate another run, and he walked five and hit two batters while allowing six runs (four earned) in just 1 ⅔ innings. Harmon tossed the final 1 ⅔ innings and gave up two earned runs on two hits and three walks.
“I expect these early season downs but I expect us to get better,” Bauserman said. “... We’re gonna have to hopefully get outside and get as much work as we can because we’re lacking field time. I think this is the fourth, maybe fifth time we’ve gotten outside all year. That’s no excuse, everybody's the same way and we’ve just gotta clean it up and don’t walk people.”
Strasburg also committed three errors in the field and stranded nine runners in the loss, but things weren’t all bad for the Rams, and Bauserman said he was encouraged by the play of some young players who were seeing varsity action for the first time.
Sophomore left fielder Brandon Martin made a great defensive play in the third inning when he covered a lot of ground and made a diving grab to take away a Page County hit. Patchrick Kennedy, another sophomore, had two of Strasburg’s seven hits and put the Rams on the board with a solo home run to right field in the fourth inning. Yet another sophomore, infielder Trey Stinnette, had a single and a stolen base.
Hart reached base four times and had three hits -- two of the infield variety -- and junior catcher Corey Keller had two RBIs in the loss.
“We were focusing on hitting today. We weren’t really thinking about any kind of small ball stuff,” said Bauserman, whose team stranded four runners in scoring position against Page pitchers Caleb Hilliard (five innings pitched, two earned runs, five strikeouts) and Taran Baker. “We were just focusing on the big picture and just seeing some pitching. We’ve seen one day of live pitching all year, so we just wanted to see some live pitching and just kind of get a gauge on some of these guys, because there were a lot of sophomores that were playing and I was very pleased with the way they played today.”
Strasburg returns to action Monday against Stonewall Jackson in a makeup game of the teams’ originally scheduled season opener that was washed out earlier this week.
“It sucks to get beat by 10 but I hope the guys take some positives away and we can just continue to work," Bauserman said. "We don’t have a game the rest of the week, so hopefully we can kind of just get back to practice and get ready for Stonewall."