By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STRASBURG -- With the game tied and a playoff berth on the line, Strasburg knew it needed to take some chances -- and they paid off.
Strasburg used aggressive baserunning to pull out a 9-8, 10-inning victory over Staunton on Thursday night in Valley Baseball League action. The win secured a playoff berth for the Express, who trailed 3-0 after the top of the first.
"They've [battled] all year," Strasburg manager Butch Barnes said. "We never give up. We were down 3-0. And I tell the guys all the time it's a nine-inning game."
With the game tied 8-8 in the bottom of the 10th, Patrick McGavin drew a two-out walk from Staunton reliever Zach Mawson. A wild pitch moved McGavin to second. A few pitches later, McGavin attempted to steal third, and the throw went into left field to score McGavin and give the Express the win.
"In that situation we're going to be aggressive, especially with a left-hander on the mound -- a big high leg kick," Barnes said.
The Express gave Barnes an ice water bath in celebration after the game.
Strasburg and Staunton battled back and forth throughout the contest. The Braves took an early 3-0 lead, including a two-run homer by James Vasquez.
The Express (21-21) answered with three of their own in the bottom of the first on a three-run homer by Cam Johnson.
"Cam had a tremendous night last night too," Barnes said. "He's seeing the ball well, and it's a great time to see it well."
The two teams traded leads in the fourth. Staunton retook the lead in the top of the sixth, but the Express responded to tie the game at 7-7 in the bottom of the sixth. Strasburg's Erick Armstrong had a two-run homer to help tie the game.
Armstrong and Johnson, the Express' 4 and 5 hitters, each had a big game for the Express, with a combined five RBIs.
"They've had big years," Barnes said. "They've had their days, but they came up huge tonight."
After Staunton took an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth, the Express responded again as Johnson had an RBI single.
The Express scored seven of their nine runs with two outs.
The Braves were led by Phil Liperi, who had three hits on the night.
Jordan Tarsovich, Johnson and Teddy Payne each had two hits to lead the Express.
Strasburg will be either the No. 2, 3 or 4 seed in the North Division playoffs, which begin on Sunday.
"We're playing pretty good," Barnes said. "[Wednesday night] with a big doubleheader win. Tonight with a big win.
"This team's battled all-year long. They're battle-tested."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org