For six innings Tuesday night at Stone Bridge, Madison senior right-hander Dan Powers had to pitch with no room for error. A scoreless game through three innings. A one-run lead after four, a brief two-run edge and then back to one again.
When Powers returned to the mound for the seventh, however, the second-ranked Warhawks, with ample help from Stone Bridge, had staked him to a eight-run lead by scoring seven runs in the top of that inning.
In Powers’s head though, it was still a one-run game. He closed out his 9-1 four-hitter as if the outcome were still in serious doubt.
“Honestly, I don’t think any different,” said Powers, who struck out six and walked one. “When we put up nine runs, it makes us have a better chance. But when I’m pitching, it’s the same mentality all the time: Just get outs.”
The three most significant came in the bottom of the sixth, when after two errors led to a Stone Bridge run, Madison turned a 4-6-3 double play and Powers struck out the final batter of the inning with the tying run on third to preserve a 2-1 lead.
“Every time he goes to the bump, we know we’ve got a shot with him,” Madison Coach Mark Gjormand said of Powers, a four-year varsity starting pitcher bound for William & Mary. “He’s our guy. We’ve got a deep staff, but he’s definitely the leader of that.”
Facing Stone Bridge sophomore J.B. Bukauskas, who struck out 13 batters in 5 2/3 innings, the Warhawks (7-1, 2-1 AAA Liberty) wanted to max out on any baserunners they might happen to get on. They did that, even scoring two of their seven runs in the ninth on what should have been an inning-ending strikeout that instead led to a wild throw down to first and another errant throw, allowing two runs to score on the play.
“You’ve got to take your shots [against Bukauskas] when you get guys in scoring position,” Gjormand said. “They may throw you out; they may not. But you’ve got to try to get them on their heels a little bit.”
Senior catcher Logan Claybrook had two of Madison’s three hits off Bukauskas, the first a one-out single in the fourth that yielded a run and the second an RBI single in the sixth that made it 2-1, which turned out to be the decisive run that dropped the Bulldogs (2-4) to 0-3 in the Liberty District.
“His approach at the plate was phenomenal,” Gjormand said. “He really took an attitude in. He just kind of grinded at-bats and got his punches.”
Madison, the beneficiary Tuesday of six Stone Bridge errors, has won seven straight since a season-opening loss to Fairfax, including five games at the Mingo Bay Classic in South Carolina last week over spring break. They threw eight pitchers down there.
Just hanging out with the guys might have been a bigger kick for Claybrook than his two-hit night Tuesday.
“That eight-hour car trip, you’re with everybody,” he said. “Just being with the guys. Best time of my life, really.”