Gandy leads the way for Cannons

By Jeff Nations

STRASBURG — Charles Town catcher Matt Gandy was the sum total of the Cannons’ offensive output in Tuesday night’s game against the Strasburg Express.

Gandy drove in all three runs in Charles Town’s 3-1 victory, one at a time. Just don’t ask him to play favorites with his RBIs — he loves them all, equally and without prejudice. True, the first two came on modest RBI groundouts to second base while the last was a line-drive single to right field. It didn’t matter to Gandy — not much, anyway.

“It’s more situational baseball,” said Gandy, who plays college ball for Chapman University. “When you’ve got [Justin Harris] and [Stephen] Kerr in front of me, they just absolutely fly.

“That’s just a part of college baseball — when someone gets to third with less than two outs, you better be hitting a ground ball up the middle. Obviously the hit is nice, but I’ll take the RBIs any day.”

Kerr got the Cannons’ rally started in the top of the first with a one-out single off Strasburg starting pitcher Brock Hunter. Kerr advanced two more bases on a pair of wild pitches, allowing Gandy the chance to drive in a run with a well-placed ground ball. He took advantage with a groundout to second.

Hunter, a left-hander from Coastal Carolina, didn’t seem inclined to give up much after that as he matched scoreless innings with Charles Town starter Stephen Solomon for the next three innings. But in the top of the fifth, Harris led off with a single and advanced to second on Hunter’s wild pickoff throw to first. Kerr executed a successful sacrifice bunt, and Gandy cleaned up with another RBI groundout.

“We did a lot of small things wrong tonight,” Strasburg manager Ben Moore said. “We keep a ‘free 90’ tally — a passed ball’s a free 90, walk’s a free 90, a wild pitch, an error, anything like that. We lost the free 90 war tonight, 16-3. We tied in hits, we tied in errors, then you look up and we lose by two. It’s just small things like that will catch up to you.”

Strasburg (15-17) got a run back in the bottom of the fifth on Jose Bonilla-Traverso’s RBI double to left off Solomon, but the right-hander escaped further damage by getting two more outs.

Right-hander Tyler Allen (Armstrong Atlantic State) followed with three scoreless innings, although he did escape serious jam in the sixth after loading the bases with one out. Express designated hitter Joe Camp then hit a sharp chopper to third, where Cannons third baseman Charlie Pal was on the alert for just such a chance. He fired home for the force out, and got even more when Strasburg base runner Howard Joe delivered a take-out slide against Gandy. That play was ruled interference since Gandy was well off the plate when he fielded the throw, resulting in a most unusual double play.

“That’s huge, because it’s bases loaded,” Moore said.

Charles Town closer Bryan DiRosario worked a relatively uneventful ninth for the save.

“We lost five guys over the All-Star break, so we had to bring in some new guys,” Charles Town manager Brett Fuller said. “The kid that started tonight, Solomon, that’s the first time we’ve seen him throw. He kept them off balance, that’s for sure. He didn’t have a lot of velo, but he was able to hit his spots and get outs.

“The next guy that came in, Allen, that’s the first time we’ve seen him, too. He threw a little harder and did his job for 2 2/3s [of an inning]. Our closer is DiRosario, and he’s done his job every time we’ve called on him this year.”

Fuller said all the recent roster losses have been pitchers, mostly due to innings limits.

Charles Town (18-13) tacked on an insurance run in the seventh. Harris drew a leadoff walk against Express reliever Joseph Mauldin, then stole second. Gandy followed with a sharp single to right for his only hit of the night.

Hunter took the loss despite allowing only five hits and two runs (one earned) in six innings. He struck out six.

“I’d say our last 11 games, probably 10 of them we’ve had a quality start,” Moore said. “That’s pretty much all you can ask from the pitching side.”

With Gandy leading the way, the Cannons put together enough offense to come away with the win at First Bank Park.

“You’ve got to beat good pitching with outs,” Gandy said. “You’re not going to beat a pitcher like that left-hander by stringing hits together. You’ve got to score with outs, and that was big for us tonight.”

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com