A Sunday rainout meant the New Market Shockers had a four-day break between games, and they returned to win two straight on the road on Tuesday and Wednesday to build some momentum heading into a weekend series against one of the Rockingham County Baseball League’s early frontrunners.
The Shockers, who had dropped two straight before the Fourth of July holiday, put together a complete effort in a 6-1 win over Bridgewater on Tuesday and followed that with what head coach Nolan Potts called a “wild” 13-12 victory over Elkton on Wednesday.
The short win streak puts New Market at 4-3 heading into the first of three straight games against Grottoes (6-2) at home at Rebel Park on Friday. The Shockers turn around and play a doubleheader at Grottoes on Saturday.
“We played real well against Bridgewater the other night, our offense, defense pitching was all great,” Potts said on Thursday. “And then last night, really the only reason we won that game is because our bats were just on fire all night long. I think we scored literally at least one run every inning. When you do that you’ve got a good chance to win, but it was a wild game. We’d take a lead, they’d bounce back and take a lead. It was just back-and-forth all night and we were able to pull it out there at the end. But yeah, getting back and winning two games in a row is a good feeling heading into the weekend.”
Local products Hunter Entsminger (Sherando/James Madison University) and Haden Madagan (Millbrook/Shenandoah University) combined to limit Bridgewater to just five hits in Tuesday’s win. Entsminger, who struck out six over five innings pitched, limited the Reds to an earned run on two hits and a walk in the winning effort, while Madagan notched a four-inning save in which he allowed three hits, walked one and struck out seven.
The Shockers also tallied 11 hits in that win, with Pearce Bucher (Sherando/Shenandoah), Calvin Pastel (Shenandoah), Luke Estep (Central/Roanoke College) and Ty Bennett (Shenandoah) recording two hits apiece from the heart of the order.
Though New Market’s pitching struggled for one of the few times so far this season on Wednesday, the Shockers’ bats stayed hot against Elkton and piled up 16 hits – including four doubles and a Pastel go-ahead home run in the top of the ninth – while New Market scored at least one run in each inning.
Eight of New Market’s nine starters had at least one hit in Wednesday’s win, and five of them had at least two hits. Henry Delavergne (Shenandoah) led all Shockers with four hits as New Market’s leadoff man, a spot that had typically been filled by college teammate and Sherando grad Frankie Ritter, whom Potts said has been out of town this week.
Potts said Wednesday’s offensive outburst was something the Shockers have been waiting on.
“We were struggling early on. I think the first four games or so we weren’t really hitting the ball all that great,” Potts said. “… All these guys are capable of hitting, it was just a matter of maybe getting their timing (down) a little more because they hadn’t seen live pitching in a while and now we’re seven games in. I think they’re finally starting to find their groove a little bit that they didn’t have when we started playing games.
“The funny thing is we’ve got a couple guys that were starting early on that have been at the beach, been out of town, so some of these guys haven’t been getting a lot of time, even during the college season,” Potts added. “They’re starting to come into their own. We’re just really deep everywhere, so even if we have a couple guys missing, we have guys that can fill in and do a good job and that’s kind of what we’ve been doing the last couple nights.”
New Market is averaging 7.1 runs per game through seven contests and is ranked third in the eight-team RCBL in team batting average (.296) and fourth in team slugging (.399).
“I think the bats are finally starting to wake up and once we’re able to hit, I really do like our chances,” said Potts, who added that New Market needs to shore up its defense to take some of the pressure off its bats and pitching staff.
The Shockers, who have played the second-fewest games in the league, have committed 15 errors this season, second only to the 21 committed by Montezuma, which has played two more games than New Market.
“Our errors that we make seem to come at the most inopportune time. It’s kind of crazy, actually,” Potts said. “If we can play solid defensively, I think that will really, really, really help us because I think our offense is starting to figure it out, our pitching’s been decent for the most part. If we can clean up our act defensively and eliminate the two or three errors we’re making every night that are costing us runs, we’ll make it a lot easier on ourselves in game. We won’t have to score 10-plus runs in order to win if our defense can back up our pitching.”