WOODSTOCK – Less than three weeks ago, Strasburg’s baseball team endured a lopsided loss at home to county rival Central and had suffered injuries to a pair of key starters, which cast a shadow of doubt over the Rams’ ability to keep pace in a wide-open Bull Run District race.
In Tuesday night’s regular-season finale, a rematch with Central, the Rams put themselves in position for a possible bye in the first round of the upcoming Bull Run District tournament.
Strasburg closed its regular season in style, outlasting the Falcons for a 4-2 road win in a game that held plenty of seeding implications for both teams. The Rams (10-10, 6-4 Bull Run) moved into a tie with Clarke County for second place with the win, with four district teams still needed to conclude their respective schedules on Wednesday and today before seeding for next week’s tournament can be finalized.
George Mason (7-2 in district play) locked up the top seed with a win over Clarke County on Tuesday and traveled to Madison County (5-4) on Wednesday night. A Madison County win over Mason would create a three-way tie for second place (results of Wednesday’s game were not available by press time). Central, which could drop as far as the five seed, closes with Rappahannock County today.
Regardless of how the final seedings shake out, the fact that Strasburg put itself in a position for second place even without some key contributors – including its top two pitchers, Trevor Sager, also the team’s three-year starting shortstop, and Justin Day – was a reason for the Rams to celebrate on Tuesday night.
“We bounce back,” Cameron Harmon, the Rams’ lone senior, said after tossing six innings to get the win against Central, Strasburg’s second in a row against district competition to close out the regular season. “No matter what happens to us, we come back and we just keep attacking. No matter who’s injured, everybody steps up. Every player that’s either on the field or starting, they’re always ready to play and to win.”
Harmon played perhaps the biggest role for the Rams on Tuesday night. On the mound, he scattered three hits and four walks while striking out seven against the Falcons, and both of his runs allowed were unearned. Harmon also had an RBI single at the plate and had two of the Rams’ four hits in the win.
Strasburg struggled to get the key hit – the Rams could’ve blown the game open early but stranded seven baserunners in the first four innings – but it also drew six walks in four innings against Falcons starter Kelan Hoover and caught some breaks from a Central squad that made a few costly mistakes in the field and on the bases.
The Falcons (11-8, 4-5) committed an error in each of the third and fourth innings – the two frames in which Strasburg scored all four of its runs – and also squandered bases-loaded situations in the second and fourth innings at the plate.
In the fourth inning, Central loaded the bases with one out against Harmon but had a runner doubled up at second to end the inning when Strasburg left fielder Camren Rutz snagged a low liner and threw to second for the final out.
Rams head coach Joe Bauserman said lucky breaks are sometimes needed to win a game, but the outcome was also a product of a new sense of confidence and momentum that was audible through the unrelenting chatter from Strasburg’s dugout from start to finish on Tuesday night.
“These guys are tight-knit,” Bauserman said. “They are a close group and you can kind of see that. Last year we weren’t really a big whoop-and-holler team, and this year it’s a bunch of juniors and sophomores and they just really whoop and holler and have a good time. There’s something to be said about that.”
Central, which had taken control of first place in the Bull Run after its 7-0 win over the Rams back on April 25, has since dropped four games in a row in district play and can’t finish higher than fourth place.
The Falcons have scored just three runs in their last three games and mustered just three hits in the rematch against the Rams. Just as concerning for Central coach Sean Semones on Tuesday was his team’s erratic defense.
Twice the Falcons failed to cover second base on ground balls, leading to errors that helped Strasburg – which got RBIs from Harmon and junior catcher Corey Keller in a three-run third inning – make up for its lack of timely hitting.
“I told the boys, we’ve gotta know what we’re doing with the ball before it’s hit to us,” Semones said. “That should be automatic at this point. I guess we’re just not mentally locked in right now like we should be.”
Semones said he told the Falcons after Tuesday’s loss that they need to realize the season isn’t over and that they have a chance to start fresh in the Bull Run District tournament starting Monday.
Strasburg, which has beaten every team in the district this season, played a waiting game to see where exactly it’ll fall in the tournament’s seeding. The top three seeds in the Bull Run District tournament earn automatic bids to the Region 2B tournament, while the fourth and fifth seeds will square off for the district’s final regional spot.
“Who knows what will happen,” Harmon said. “Every team we’re facing is pretty good and we’ve faced them, some we’ve lost to and some we’ve won, so it’s a toss-up really. All I can tell you is that off this win, we’re going with momentum. That’s all we can do.”