Cannons roar back from early deficit to top Cards

By Spenser Leatherman – sports@nvdaily.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. – Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning against the Front Royal Cardinals on Wednesday night, the Charles Town Cannons’ offense came alive.

Charles Town saw its first eight batters in the fourth reach safely and score with no outs, including the first-year team’s historic first grand slam hit by Alabama State’s Waldyvan Estrada in an 8-3 victory to secure the second seed of the Valley Baseball League’s Northern Division playoffs.

“We had the bases loaded in the first inning and came up with nothing,” Cannons manager Bobby Rauh said. “It was nice to get guys on base and Waldy having the grand slam. It was fun to see.”

“We needed this for home-field advantage,” Estrada said. “We were looking for base runners and a couple base hits. We took advantage of the pitcher’s mistakes to get the eight runs.”

Front Royal started out scoring early, putting a pair of runs on the board.

Concord’s Andrew Seigel walked before a triple by Baylor’s Benjamin Carl brought him in to score. Carl scored on a passed ball.

Cannons starter Michael Estevez, from Alabama State, did not surrender another run until the sixth inning.

“Mike did a great job bouncing back,” Rauh said. “He had some trouble finding the strike zone, but settled in and found his groove. He has such tremendous stuff, and when he finds the strike zone, he is very helpful to us.”

The Cannons gained the lead and never looked back in the fourth inning with their eight-run outburst.

Brent Williams of Oklahoma State and Spence Rahm of Sam Houston State walked to start the fourth. West Virginia Tech’s Marc-Richard Culmer singled to bring in Williams to give the Cannons their first run. Florida International’s L.K. Thompson singled to load the bases before Kraig Kelly of the University of Central Arkansas singled to score Rahm with the equalizer.

Alabama State’s Emmanuel Marrero was hit by a pitch to bring the go-ahead run to score. Wheeling Jesuit’s Pat Ammar singled to bring another run in before Estrada cleared the bases with his grand slam.

Front Royal scored a run in the top of the sixth, but the Cardinals were unable to close the gap any further.

Current Shepherd Rams pitcher Ryan Pansch — who graduated from nearby Washington High School — made his Charles Town debut, pitching a scoreless top of the seventh inning facing four Cardinals batters. He gave up one hit, while striking out one in his lone inning of work. Michael Lott of Shepherd also was added to Charles Town’s roster.