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Cards derail Express with walk-off homer

By Brad Fauber - sports@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Host Front Royal struggled at the plate for most of Tuesday night's matchup with visiting Strasburg, but the Cardinals found some offense when they needed it most.

The Cardinals (2-1) trailed 1-0 entering the bottom of the ninth inning before scratching out a run to knot the score at 1-all and send the game into extra innings.

In the bottom of the 10th inning, Front Royal cashed in again, this time on a walk-off, two-run home run by Zach Bricknell for a 3-1 victory.

The left-handed Bricknell, facing Express reliever Matt Verdillo, fell behind in the count 1-2 before yanking Verdillo's fourth offering over the right-field fence for the win.

"The first pitch, I was just planning on taking one, and after that I just wanted to put it in play to give our team a chance to win," Bricknell said. "I didn't expect to do that at all -- it's great."

The first eight innings was full of nothing but missed opportunities for both offenses and neither team could take advantage with runners on base.

Front Royal stranded eight men on base on the night, including leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Strasburg (0-3) left just four runners on, but three of those were in scoring position.

Strasburg also struck out a whopping 18 times, including 12 whiffs against Front Royal starter Trevor Graham, who pitched six innings and allowed a run on five hits. Jon Fitzsimmons got the win for Front Royal with a scoreless 10th inning.

"Trevor [Graham] pitched really well," said Front Royal manager Clayton Kuklick. "He got strike one, he threw his breaking ball for strikes late. He had a great game plan put together."

Strasburg managed to squeeze out a run in the top of the third inning when George Smith snuck a grounder through the hole between first and second to score Zach Wiley and give the Express a 1-0 lead.

That lead held up until the bottom of the ninth, when Express reliever Ryan Lowe struggled with his command. Lowe loaded the bases with none out after a pair of walks and strikeout on a wild pitch that allowed a runner to reach, and surrendered a run on a double-play ball by Cardinals first baseman Cody Yount.

Strasburg starting pitcher Jeff Maxwell tossed 6 1/3 innings while allowing three hits and no runs, and was in line for the win before the meltdown in the bottom of the ninth. He was also backed by some stellar plays in the field.

"This is our third game -- we're still feeling things out," said Express manager Butch Barnes. "These guys come to come to compete. They're here competing and doing the best they can. It looks bleak now because we're 0-3, but they'll turn things around."

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