Harvell makes good impression in Express’ win

By Jeff Nations

STRASBURG — To his Strasburg Express teammates, left fielder Brandon Harvell is one of several members of the squad simply known as “new guy.”

Harvell is one of a slew of late-season replacements on the team, having joined the Express this past weekend after spending most of his summer playing in an adult league. His Strasburg teammates do know his name, of course, but Harvell naturally wants to prove himself to his teammates and Express manager Ben Moore — first impressions can be so important.

Striking out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh? Not so good.

Hitting a go-ahead, two-run double in the eighth? Now that’s more like it.

Harvell did both on Friday against visiting Charles Town, and ended up with the offensive highlight in Strasburg’s 4-2 win over the Cannons.

“I struck out with the bases loaded, so I wasn’t very happy about that,” Harvell said. “I knew I had to contribute in my next at-bat.”

Tied at 2-all entering the bottom of the eighth, Strasburg (21-20) got a leadoff single from Luke Wurzelbacher. Two outs later, pinch hitter Taylor Davis drew a walk to put runners at the corners. Charles Town manager Brett Fuller called on his fifth pitcher of the night, right-hander Bryan DiRosario, to face Harvell, who promptly slashed a first-pitch fastball into deep right-center for the two-run double.

“With a new pitcher coming in, I don’t think he’s going to throw me an off-speed pitch with his first pitch,” said Harvell, who plays collegiately at Longwood University “I’ve always heard that it’s like 90 percent of the time when a new pitcher is coming in, or the first pitch of the inning, is always going to be a fastball.”

The big hit was even bigger for Harvell, since it was the first game his father — Christopher Newport University head baseball coach John Harvell — had managed to attend since his son joined the team.

The Express broke up a brewing pitcher’s duel between Strasburg’s Nick Gollin and the Cannons’ Jack Charleston with a single run in the bottom of the fourth as Howard Joe delivered an RBI single. Joe had already had a big night up to that point, all on the defensive side. In the third, he flashed his arm strength with a bullet that Express catcher John Brocious caught on the fly to discourage a Cannons base runner at third base. Joe did it again in the top of the fourth with another on-target dart from right with one out and a Charles Town runner on third. To cap his highlight reel, he made a sliding catch to end the inning.

“I just started playing outfield this February at school, so I’m kind of new,” Joe said. “Coach Moore’s really been helping me out, putting me out there every day and helping me learn the position.”

The Cannons (22-18) got that run back in the fifth on a Justin Harris RBI groundout, then went ahead in the sixth with a flurry of infield singles. Austin Bream had the fourth one of the inning to drive in a run with the bases loaded, but the Cannons stranded the rest of those runners.

Strasburg pulled even again in the bottom of the sixth when Charles Town reliever Austin Ray issued a bases-loaded walk to Tyler McDonald. Connor Anderson came on in relief and escaped the bases-loaded jam without further damage, but the Cannons weren’t so fortunate in the eighth.

“That’s what hurt us,” Fuller said of the walks. “And then when you bring in other guys with inherited runners, they’ve got to throw strikes. Hitters know that.”

With his team’s playoff spot already sealed up, Moore is planning to keep it loose for the final two games of the regular season.

“Since we’ve clinched sixth, we’re going to have a little fun these last two games and let them relax,” Moore said. “Tyler McDonald is going to play all nine positions tomorrow. And then the next night we’ll probably flip flop, where position players will pitch and pitchers will hit.”

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