STRASBURG – When Chase Hart was contemplating what the future held in store for Strasburg’s baseball team after the 2018 season, he said recently, the junior imagined a 2019 roster brimming with upperclassmen. A closer look at this year’s Rams team left Hart a little surprised.
Strasburg’s 2019 roster is a big one – head coach Joe Bauserman kept 18 players on the varsity squad – but not even half of that number is upperclassmen. Seven juniors and one senior top that list, and nine sophomores and one freshman complete the Rams’ roster breakdown.
The Rams aren’t exactly lacking varsity experience – they lost only three seniors to graduation from the 2018 team – but they aren’t exactly an old team either.
“It’s definitely a tight-knit group. These guys all seem to have a good team chemistry,” Bauserman said on Monday. “We’re still young. I hate saying that because we’ve got like seven or eight guys with at least one year of varsity experience. We’ll have some experience back but knowing where guys are gonna be playing, it’s a completely different year.”
Of the major contributors returning from the 2018 team that went 6-14 and failed to get out of the Bull Run District tournament quarterfinals, Bauserman said only junior shortstop Trevor Sager and junior catcher Corey Keller would stick in the same positions they held a season ago.
The rest of the roster is competing for the other six positions in the infield and outfield, and Bauserman noted that the large roster size has fostered plenty of that competition, which is pushing those players who have spent multiple years at the varsity level.
“We’re trying to figure out the best fit for everybody,” said outfielder/pitcher Cameron Harmon, the team’s lone senior, “because there’s new faces and there’s also returning ones. Sometimes the position you played last year isn’t the best fit this year just because the team’s changed so much. We’re just moving people around, seeing what they can do, getting some people that haven’t pitched before to pitch. We’re just figuring things out.”
Harmon is one of those Rams whose role will change in 2019. After pitching sparingly last season, Harmon’s name was one of the four listed by Bauserman when the head coach discussed the players Strasburg would expect to shoulder the load on the mound this spring.
Sager and sophomore outfielder Justin Day, who posted a 2.90 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings pitched as a freshman, were two others that Bauserman named, and Hart, who said he occasionally pitched in a late-inning role last season, was the fourth.
No matter who is on the mound, they’ll be asked to throw strikes with more consistency than Ram pitchers did a year ago when walks and errors contributed to too many blown leads.
“That’s really what it comes down to, is trust your defense and just throw strikes,” Hart said of the pitchers’ approach this season. “It’s just working on the little things and focusing and being competitive up there on the mound.”
How improved the Rams are on the mound and in the field likely will determine whether they can win more games in 2019, as offensive production doesn’t figure to be much of a concern entering the new season.
Strasburg graduated its top two hitters from last year – second team All-Region 2B honorees Justin King (.423 average in 2018) and Austin Miller (.422, two home runs, 19 RBIs) – but Hart batted .421 and led the Rams in doubles (10) and RBIs (24) on his way to an all-region spot, and Harmon posted a .391 average, five triples and 22 RBIs last season.
Sager (.394) and Keller (.339) also hit well above .300 for a Strasburg squad that boasted five of the top six batting average leaders among the six public high schools in the Daily’s coverage area last season.
“Offensively if we continue like we did last year we should be pretty good, but again the guys are gonna have to work, focus, continue to get better, not get complacent,” Bauserman said. “Justin Day and (infielder) Patchrick Kennedy were both freshmen last year, I hope they make a big jump because they struggled a little bit at times, but you expect that. Hopefully, the experience really helped them. I think it did and I think both those guys will have better years.”
Strasburg, like every team in the area, has had limited outdoor practice time due to weather this preseason, though the Rams were able to play a few innings of an intrasquad scrimmage last week.
The Rams, who had their scrimmage vs. Luray canceled this week, are scheduled to open the season Monday at Stonewall Jackson.
“I’d like to think we’re pretty strong top to bottom, but we’ll see,” Bauserman said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t played. Trey Stinnette and Brandon Martin and Collin Reynolds are guys that are sophomores that are gonna look for some time on varsity, and they’re gonna push a lot of those younger guys that haven’t been pushed. That’ll be nice.”