The three-seeded Rams used a big third inning to pick up another tournament win last Wednesday evening, this time over county rival Forbush.
Starmount‘s four-run third inning proved strong enough to hold off a late Falcon offensive and give the Rams the 6-5 win. “It was a good team effort today by all of them,” said Starmount Coach Mike McCann.
Although Starmount’s biggest inning came in the top of the third, the Rams got on the board in the top of the first thanks to a leadoff double from Eugene Billips.
After stealing third, Chase Thompson pushed Billips across the plate when he ground out to first base for the RBI. Forbush fired back in the bottom of the first with a leadoff triple by Brittan Baity. Travis Holden scored Baity on a sacrifice fly ball to leftfield to tie the game.
In the third inning, the heart of the Starmount lineup delivered in a big way on offense, beginning with the Ram cleanup hitter, Jake Barr.
Barr drove in the first run on a double to the right field fence. His brother, Alex Barr, followed during the next at-bat with an RBI triple, scoring Jake.
“My three, four, five, six, seven and eight guys are really hitting the ball well right now. Either the one or two batter are getting on base, which means you have to throw to Dobson. Then you’ve got (Jake) Barr and (Alex) Barr. Forbush is the same way. You get in the lineup around Brawley, you’ve got to be careful, because they will hurt you in a heartbeat,” McCann said.
After Alex’s RBI triple, Holden relieved starting Forbush pitcher, Josh Faircloth and struck out the first batter he faced.
“I thought Travis Holden came in for them and did a great job. We hit the ball, but we weren’t getting any hard hits,” McCann said.
The Rams picked up two more runs in the inning to jump out to a 5-1 lead.
Dillon Dobson made it a five-run game in the top of the fourth with a leadoff homerun. Despite the early barrage of offensive action by the Rams, Forbush got one run back on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning on Caleb Brawley’s RBI single to right, which scored Devin Doss.
Forbush continued to chip into the Starmount lead in the bottom of the fourth.
After Ben Temple led off the inning with a walk, he made the dash across home plate on a Starmount error and cut the Ram lead to just three.
Although the Rams cut the lead in the fourth, perhaps the most dramatic action came in the bottom of the seventh. With their hopes of a conference tournament championship on the ropes, the Falcon offense kicked into overdrive and began racking up the hits.
After the first batter ground out, Baity ripped a double to centerfield. With Baity in scoring position, Bray struck out Holden for the second out.
Needing a hit, Caleb Brawley hit a grounder to Ram shortstop Dillon Dobson, but safely reached base on with an error on the throw to first.
The play during Brawley’s at-bat also allowed Baity to safely dash across home plate for his second run scored in the game. Although the Rams picked up two outs early in the inning, Dillon Bray began to labor on the mound and hit one Falcon batter with a pitch and walked another to load the bases. With two outs and the bases loaded, sophomore Ben Temple hammered an RBI single to centerfield, and scored Caleb Brawley.
“Ben Temple, a sophomore in a pressure-packed situation, came through for us with two outs,” Rutledge said.
While Brawley was making his dash for home, Rutledge gave pinch runner, Nelson Valerio, the sign to hold at third, rather than chance an out at home.
Rutledge credited his trust in his team’s ability to hit the ball for giving Valerio the hold at third.
“My biggest fear is Dobson is standing on second and fires a strike to home and we’re gunned out at home. I trust my kids hitting. I trust one through nine. We’ve hit well all year and there’s no sense in me not trusting the kids now,” Rutledge said. “We got our men on base like we wanted. We stayed with our philosophy in the last inning and the kids executed it perfectly. I think of the first three or four batters, only one of them didn’t get on base, which was what we needed,” Rutledge said.
Needing to end the inning, Starmount opted to bring in relief pitcher Tanner Mathis to close out the game.
Facing a new pitcher, Dustin Moore connected for a shot to deep centerfield. However, Alex Barr came up with the catch for the final out of the game.
While the Rams brought out the bats against their archrival, Bray delivered a solid performance from the mound, and earned seven strikeouts against Forbush in the game.
“Dillon Bray came out and pitched an excellent ballgame today. We kept them off balance and did a few new things with the way we approached some of their batters,” McCann said.
The win improved Starmount’s record to 12-5 within the conference and paired the Rams against the Wilkes Central Eagles (14-2) for the MVAC tournament championship game, which took place Thursday evening.
Starmount 1 0 4 1 0 0 0- 6 11 2
Forbush 1 0 1 1 0 0 2- 5 8 0