The state of the Fauquier Falcons’ offense is much like that of their batting cages.
The cages collapsed under the weight of snow dropped by a storm earlier this month and they haven’t been very useful since. The Fauquier offense, meanwhile, produced only five runs over its first two games of 2013 after losing some hefty hitters following last season.
The cages, however, are in the midst of repair and Fauquier coach Bob Martin said he hopes to have one operational this week. He also hopes the Falcons’ batting order can pick up its production.
“We’re hoping some of the younger guys can come up and fill those spots,” Martin said. “It’s going to be a struggle for us to score runs, but if our pitching holds up we’ll be OK.”
Fauquier opened the season March 13 with an 8-3 loss to Skyline and then fell to Eastern View, 5-2, Friday. During the preseason, without the use of batting cages, the Falcons often hit whiffle balls in the Fauquier gym because wet conditions typically kept them off their field.
Regardless, if Fauquier’s hitters heat up with the weather, the Falcons could contend for the Evergreen District championship for the first time in a few seasons.
Recently, the district battle has come down Kettle Run and Liberty, but Fauquier has six returning starters this season with a fairly experienced pitching staff.
“On paper, we should contend,” Martin said. “But we’ll see. We haven’t played very good baseball yet.”
The Falcons essentially lost their defensive backbone following last season in catcher Jordan Taylor, shortstop Robby King and center fielder Kyle Higgins. That trio also composed the top of Fauquier’s batting order, with Taylor as leadoff, King as cleanup and Higgins at No. 2 hitter.
Fauquier’s ability to replace those players could determine its success this season. Sophomore second baseman Gavin Cranford leads off for the Falcons, while junior center fielder Charlie Simmons hits second and senior third baseman Hunter Ball bats third.
“He’s our best hitter,” Martin said of Ball.
Meanwhile, senior Garrett Croson moved from second base to shortstop after King’s departure. He hits fourth in the order, while senior left fielder Brad Smoot bats fifth and senior right fielder Max Win hits sixth.
Rounding out the lineup are first baseman Brad Curtis, sophomore Ryan Simpson and freshman Ty Pavlock. When Simpson isn’t pitching, he’ll find a spot in the batting order as a first baseman, left fielder or catcher.
Similarly, Martin is trying to keep a spot in the order for Pavlock.
“I like his bat,” Martin said. “So far he’s done a pretty good job at catcher. He could be our everyday catcher. We’ll see.”
Fauquier’s pitching staff is composed of three players with significant experience in Simmons, Winn and Smoot. Plus, after throwing in only one game last season, Simpson is much improved, Martin said.
“I’m fairly confident” in the pitchers, he said. “Charlie’s a very good pitcher and Simpson throws the ball really well also.”
Use of a deep staff should help Fauquier weather the recent VHSL rule change that limits the number of innings pitchers can throw in a week. Among the restrictions, a player can throw only 14 innings over seven consecutive days, and if that player throws four innings in a day he must rest four days before pitching again.
“And for some reason our schedule has more three-game weeks” compared to two-game weeks in the past, Martin said. “So we’re going to have to pitch more pitchers than we needed to last year.”
Against Eastern View, Simmons allowed only one hit over 5 2/3 innings, but the Falcons walked six hitters, including three in one inning. Against Skyline, Simpson allowed only one run on one hit in four innings of relief after Winn started the game.
The Falcons, however, allowed five unearned runs thanks to four errors.
1. Gavin Cranford, 2B, So.
2. Charlie Simmons, CF, Jr.*
3. Hunter Ball, 3B, Sr.*
4. Garrett Croson, SS, Sr.*
5. Brad Smoot LF, Sr.*
6. Max Winn, RF, Sr.*
7. Ryan Simpson, P, So.*
8. Brad Curtis, 1B
9. Ty Pavlock, C, Fr.
/ On Twitter @jeffmalmgren.