Lack of runs, weather hamper Cougars in Sectional
SHEPHERDSTOWN — If there were a spigot that could be turned on and out came not water but runs, Jefferson would be a thirsty and run-poor baseball team.
Finding runs in the rain-interrupted Region II, Section 2 tournament has been as difficult as scoring was against all-time Major Leaguers Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton.
Through its first three games in the double elimination event, the Cougars could locate just eight runs, or 3.67 runs a game in their loss to Hampshire, nerve-wracking win over Washingbton (a team with two wins in 2019) and tense 2-1 victory over Hampshire last Saturday.
The precipice is there. With its severe lack of runs, extra base hits and energizing offense, Jefferson is staring down into a chasm its batters haven’t been able to move it away from in its three Sectional outings.
The Cougars began by being stymied by Hampshire right-hander Collin Sulser, who limited them to two hits in a 4-2 Trojan win. Beating Jefferson after defeating Washington in its first game gave the Trojans the early upper hand. Jefferson was 0-1 and would be shoved rudely into the summer with another loss.
Taylor Tennant’s strike-throwing pitching performance was wasted as Jefferson’s offense generated just eight base runners against Sulser.
It appeared Tennant had enough strikes to possibly ground the Trojans with a shutout, and that Jefferson’s two-run second inning could carry it through. Tennant’s sacrifice fly scored a run and Chase Anderson, who had walked, scored on a wild pitch as Tennant was given a bare-bones 2-0 lead to preserve and protect. He did just that through five shutout innings.
But then Hampshire got off life-support with the help of an inning-starting infield error. Then with two outs and only one runner aboard, the Trojans strung together a single, Tennant’s first and only walk, and a pair of two-RBI singles to hurriedly produce a definitive 4-2 lead that plunged the Cougars into the loser’s bracket.
Jefferson’s scoring miseries continued on unabated against Washington, a team the Cougars had beaten twice in the regular season with mercy-rule wins.
Six hits, seven walks and two errors could generate only four runs — even when three wild pitches and three stolen bases were added to the less-than-lethal mix.
Pitchers Zac Rose and Dylan McCartney (3.2 innings) choked Washington with strikes, but Jefferson had only a 2-1 lead after five innings.
Wet grounds kept the Cougars from seeing Hampshire again on Friday.
But Saturday’s 2-1 win by the Cougars over the equally struggling Trojans was just more of the same run-starved baseball from the two offenses.
James Walsh had Hampshire looking for any base runner that might be hiding in its dugout. And Hampshire’s Eli Hott would not donate any walks to the Jefferson cause so the Cougars could not score for fully five innings.
Walsh fanned five through only two innings. Two Jefferson infield errors has him needing every out his own arm could produce if the score were to remain at 0-0. Walsh still had the Trojans blanked for six innings. And he had a 2-0 lead because a walk, bunt hit from Hayden Stang, hit batter, Cory Daly’s sacrifice fly and Stevie Lee’s soft single to first base had somehow generated two runs.
Walsh went to the seventh with a lead.
He fanned the ninth Trojan he mastered to begin the last inning. But then he walked only his second man of the afternoon. He was replaced by McCartney.
McCartney got a ground out, but yielded a lopping single to center, placing the potential tying run on base.
Another hit broke the scoreless stranglehold the Trojans had been enduring. It was now 2-1 and Hampshire had two runners aboard.
Eli Hott lined a shot directly at Rose at first base. Rose’s catch ended the game . . . and the Jefferson dugout, fan followers and on-field players could breathe again as the Cougars had dealt Hampshire a loss.
Monday’s scheduled finale of the Sectional between Jefferson and Hampshire was rained out, sending the series to a possible Tuesday ending — barring more rain.
Runs were as scarce as sunshine, but when the sun does return, the teams will once more seek a run or two from their offenses.