South County baseball coach Mark Luther stood on the Stallions’ home field after an April 29 win over Woodson and recalled a point in the season when standout pitcher Evan Beal struggled with consistency.
Friday night was not that point in time.
Beal tossed a three-hit shutout against the Cavaliers, striking out 10 during a 6-0 victory against a 2010 state tournament participant and fellow Patriot District power. The win improved South County’s record to 15-0, and the Stallions added win No. 16 on Tuesday, a 13-6 decision against T.C. Williams.
South County was good enough to go undefeated while Beal was getting settled, and it appears the Stallions have improved.
"He keeps getting better and better," Luther said of Beal. "Early in the season he was a little inconsistent with his fastball. I just kind of attributed it to not getting on the mound enough because we had so much rain and too much time in between. Now we’ve had some consistent starts over the last three weeks and he’s starting to get into a groove."
Beal, who signed to play at the University of South Carolina, threw 55 of 89 pitches for strikes and threw a first-pitch strike to 16 of 24 batters he faced. He dominated a Woodson team that entered the contest with a 12-2 record while exhibiting bit of a "nasty" streak on the mound.
"He’s our emotional leader," Luther said. "He’s a competitor."
The Stallions lineup gave Beal a lead in the third when senior Alex Carrington drove in Blake Thompson and Andrew Rector with a single. Kyle Fairbanks belted a two-run home run in the fourth and Carrington added another two-run single in the sixth.
"He’s got a little senior leadership in him," Luther said of Carrington. "He’s not one of the captains, but he knows when it’s time to produce, he needs to bear down."
Beal ran into trouble in the fifth, surrendering a hit, a walk and allowing a runner to reach third base for only the second time, but he held Woodson scoreless. After retiring the Woodson leadoff batter in the sixth via groundout, Beal struck out the final five Cavaliers he faced.
"You play a team like these guys with Beal on the mound," Woodson coach Chris Warren said, "you pretty much have to play flawless."
South County will host West Springfield (May 6) and Lee (May 10) and travel to Annandale (May 12) to conclude the regular season. With the playoffs approaching, Beal said the Stallions are guarding against letting their undefeated record become a distraction.
"Coach sat us down in the locker room the other day and said, ‘Give me some of your ideas [about how to stay focused], what do you think?’" Beal said. "As far we’ve come to this point, it’s really nothing unless we prove it at the end of the season."