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Express end first season on high note

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Nicholas Barnes hugs Joseph Bennie (2) in the third inning after Bennie hit a two run homerun. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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Front Royal second baseman Christopher Triplett tags out Blake Crabtree of Strasburg between first and second. Crabtree was trying to advance on an infield grounder. Dennis Grundman/Daily

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Joseph Bennie of Strasburg slides into second after hitting a two-run double in the second inning. Matt Henriksen of Front Royal waits for the throw. Dennis Grundman/Daily

By Jerry Holsworth - sports@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- It took over four hours and 13 innings, but Strasburg finished it first Valley League season with a 10-9 victory over Front Royal Thursday.

The Cardinals' loss forces a one-game playoff with Haymarket tonight at Bing Crosby Stadium for a berth in the postseason.

Igor Molina got the game-winning hit with two outs and the bases loaded, scoring Brenton Peters from third. It ended a marathon game that featured 13 pitchers, 28 hits, 10 errors and 112 at-bats by both teams.

The Express jumped ahead early in the contest thanks in large part to a six-run second that featured four Front Royal errors. All of the Strasburg runs in the inning were unearned thanks to three Cardinals errors on ground balls to three of the first four Express batters in the inning.

Strasburg added a run in the third and another in the fourth to push its lead to what looked like a comfortable 9-0, but the Cardinals came roaring back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.

Front Royal began its comeback in the Cardinals' half of the fourth, producing six runs on five hits and an Express error. The Cardinals added another three runs in the seventh to tie the game, taking advantage of two Strasburg errors during the inning.

Neither team was able to mount much of threat after the seventh. Front Royal was only able to put two runners in scoring position over the next five innings, and the Express managed just one runner in scoring position until their half of the 13th.

Ben Thoma had a good night at the plate in defeat for Front Royal, going 3-for-7 with two RBIs. All three of his hits were doubles. Connor Madden was the leading hitter for the Express, going 4-for-6 with an RBI before being tossed in the ninth for arguing with the home plate umpire.

Nicholas Barnes was also productive at the plate for Strasburg, getting hits two of his three times at bat with two RBIs.

Nick Bruns got the win for the Express, allowing no runs on two hits through 5 1/3 innings on the mound. Kyle Scallion took the loss for the Cardinals, allowing one run on one hit through one inning on the mound.

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