Centreville High starting pitcher Ryan Ashooh has been coming up big for the Wildcats all season long, so it was almost expected that the senior southpaw would put together another solid outing in the Wildcats’ important late season baseball game against Herndon on Tuesday night.
Sure enough, Ashooh, in his fourth complete game outing over his last five starts, gave Centreville another stellar outing in leading his team past the Hornets, 10-0. The Concorde District baseball game, in which first place was on the line, took place on a beautiful spring evening at Centreville and ended during the home team’s bottom of the fifth inning at-bats when Cam Walter’s RBI single made the score 10-0 and evoked the 10-run mercy rule.
“We’re feeling good right now,” said Walter, Centreville’s senior first baseman who homered and knocked in four runs in the win. “This was a big game. Herndon has come out of nowhere.”
Indeed, the Hornets have not been among the district’s better teams in recent years. But this season, under first year coach Greg Miller, the squad has experienced a breakthrough season. Entering this week, Herndon (10-4) was tied with both Centreville and Westfield for first place in the district standings with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. The Hornets, despite the recent injury loss of key starting pitcher Paul Hvozdovic, have remained a contender.
But Centreville (11-5) overwhelmed its guests on Tuesday, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning and three more in the second to all but assure itself of earning its fifth district win to two defeats. With the early 7-0 lead and its ace pitcher on the mound, the Wildcats were in control from start to finish.
“We were ready and new the importance of this game and every game,” said Centreville coach Morgan Spencer, whose team won its fourth game in a row. “We know Herndon is well coached and that they were capable of coming back. They’re having a good season.”
The Hornets had an ominous start to the game when starting pitcher Alex Clark, in just his second starting assignment and third overall pitching appearance of the season, left the game in the first inning after facing just five batters and recording one out. Clark, who had been so effective in a six inning outing in his team’s 3-2 win over Chantilly on April 27, left the game with a strained arm.
Mark McCormick, Centreville’s junior leadoff batter, opened the bottom of the first with a scorching line drive double off the right field fence. He eventually scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch. But the first inning’s biggest highlight came when clean-up hitter Walter, with two Centreville teammates aboard, sent a soaring fly ball well over the left field fence for his fifth home run of the season to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead.
“He’d been working away from me the whole at-bat,” said Walter, who will be playing football on scholarship next school year at Virginia Military Institute (VMI). “He then brought a fastball in and I got a hold of it.”
Walter finished the game 2-for-3 with the homer, a single and two runs scored. His groundball single into left field with no outs in the fifth inning scored teammate David DeLorimier from second base to make it 10-0, automatically ending the game because of the 10-run rule.
On hand to witness the game was VMI baseball coach Marlin Ikenberry, who is hoping Walter will be a two-sport athlete for the Keydets next year. Centreville senior pitcher Connor Bach, a left-hander, is already committed to playing baseball at VMI. Ikenberry is also hoping that the 6-foot-4 inch, 215-pound Walter will play for his team as a walk-on.
Following Tuesday’s game, Ikenberry spent several minutes talking to both Walter and Bach, the latter who played right field and collected three hits against the Hornets.
Walter, already committed to playing football at VMI, said he is likely to also play baseball as well at the Lexington, Va. School.
For the season, Walter is batting over .600 with a slugging percentage over 1.000. He has knocked in 25 runs to go along with his five homers.
“He’s just an excellent hitter,” said coach Spencer. “He’s got a good approach at the plate.”
<b>FOR THE GAME</b>, Centreville knocked around 13 hits off of three Herndon pitchers. Along with Walter’s big night, the Wildcats also had multi-hit games from McCormick (2 hits, 3 runs), DeLorimier (2 hits, 3 runs), and Bach (3 hits, 2 runs). McCormick and Bach had RBI singles in Centreville’s three-run second inning.
Other base hits for the Wildcats came from catcher Chris Mandell (RBI single), DH Leo Montoya, Bobby San Martin and Kevin Kang.
Centreville was playing without two starters out with health issues – second baseman Andy Viands and shortstop Chris Campbell.
Ashooh, Centreville’s terrific starting pitcher, saw his record improve to 7-2 on the season. His earned run average is around one and he has six complete games. He said the key to his strong season has been throwing first pitch strikes.
“I’m trying to get ahead and not throw too many pitches,” said Ashooh, who allowed one hit – a second inning single to Daniel Shill – while striking out 10 and walking two against Herndon. “My curve ball definitely had [Herndon batters] thinking a little tonight.”
Ashooh, who struck out the side in the top of the first, said he loves going deep into games.
“I think I am better later in the game,” he said.
Spencer said Ashooh brings a lot to the hill.
“He’s a kid that gets ahead in the count and throws four different pitches for strikes,” said the coach. “He’s well conditioned and gets stronger as the game goes on.”
Walter loves watching his fellow senior pitch.
“He’s got good movement and his fastball drops off,” said Walter. “You don’t see opponents hitting fly balls. They’re all ground balls.”
Herndon hit just three balls into the outfield – Shill’s single and two fly ball outs. On one second inning fly ball off the bat of Herndon’s Zach Reif, Centreville left fielder McCormick ran in and made a spectacular diving catch.
This Friday night, Centreville will host district opponent Chantilly at 6:30. The Chargers have beaten Centreville in seven straight meetings. Chantilly defeated Centreville, 4-2, in the first meeting between the local rivals this season.
“We need to come back big this Friday and get that game,” said Walter.