Express deliver lights-out performance in win

By Rick Kozlowski – sports@nvdaily.com

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. — A power surge caused an outage of the lights Friday night at Sager Field.

The lights had long gone out on the Charles Town Cannons before the eighth-inning delay, however.

Just as soon as the Cannons got themselves back in the game with the Strasburg Express, they dropped out during a 12-3 Valley Baseball League loss.

A lot of it started because the Cannons dropped the ball.

Charles Town pulled to within a run at 4-3 in the fourth inning, but the Express scored four times in the fifth inning — helped by four Cannons’ errors — and built on their lead against the Northern Division’s second-place team as the game wore on.

A second four-run inning by Strasburg in the seventh gave it even more of a commanding lead.

“We’ve played well in spurts, but we put everything together this evening,” Express manager Butch Barnes said.

Beside the errors, Charles Town also struggled with early pitching issues.

Starter Chris Payne and first reliever Brad Emery gave up five walks over the four innings as Strasburg built a 4-0 lead. A wild pitch enabled one of the runs to score.

“It’s one of those games,” Charles Town manager Bobby Rauh said. “Baseball, you’re not going to be there every day.

“That’s the way it is.”

Sacrifice flies by Jordan Tarsovich and Cameron Johnson drove in Strasburg’s first two runs in the in second and third innings, respectively. Johnson’s fly ball plated Erik Armstrong, who struck with a one-out triple to left-center field.

Three walks helped account for a pair of Strasburg runs in the fourth inning as the Express took the four-run lead.

Patrick McGavin walked to open the inning and later scored on a wild pitch. Terry McClinton drove in the other run with a single as part of his three-hit night.

Charles Town pulled to within 4-3 during its half of the fourth as Pat Ammar doubled to open the inning and Emmanuel Marrero reached first on a third strike wild pitch. Both scored on a triple to the right-field corner by Marc Culmer, who came home on Tyler Hibbert’s groundout.

The lights figuratively shut down on the Cannons the next inning, their fuse blowing out.

“We did things early, then got flattened,” Rauh said. “They hit the ball, and we gave them some plays in the outfield.”

The fifth-inning problems developed with two outs as Thompson’s relay throw at second on a potential double play skipped past first base and McGavin wound up at second. That was the second error of the inning.

Johnny Schiotis and Andrew Kubuski each singled, with Schiotis driving home McGavin.

“We came through with some timely hitting,” Barnes said. “When they kicked one, we got some hitting to go with it.”

Schiotis scored on a wild pitch, then Kubuski trucked home as Tarsovich’s single to right field was misplayed, putting him at third base. An error on McClinton’s grounder to third enabled Tarsovich to score and give the Express an 8-3 lead.

The Express scored four more runs in the eighth inning, though Strasburg needed little help from the Cannons to produce on offense this time.

Kubuski, the No. 9 hitter, opened the inning with a double to the fence in right field and scored on Tarsovich’s high-hopping single past shortstop. Singles by McClinton and Anthony Payne were followed by Johnson’s bases-clearing triple.

Charles Town offered up little of a threat, managing only two hits over the final five innings — a single by Ammar to go with his double. The Cannons went 1-2-3 in four of those innings.

Strasburg finished with 14 hits, including a pair each from the bottom two hitters in the lineup.

“Our lineup, one through nine, is pretty strong,” Barnes said. “We’re not putting anybody out there who can’t hit, that’s for sure.

“We expect [Kubuski] to produce in the nine hole. He’s like another leadoff hitter for us.”

Strasburg’s real leadoff hitter, Tarsovich, produced a perfect night, going 3 for 3 with two walks and a sacrifice fly.

Thompson, Ammar and Culmer each had two of Charles Town’s nine hits.

If anything kind of summed up the type of night Charles Town experienced, Shane Ammon, who singled in the ninth inning, was thrown out at third base on an 8-to-5 fielder’s choice as Estrada’s bloop fell in short center field.