Cannons top Express in first game of series

By Spenser Leatherman — sports@journal-news.net

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.Va. — Just as the chips were down for the Charles Town Cannons against the Strasburg Express in game one of the Valley Baseball League semifinal series at Sager Field Friday night, Cannons manager Brett Fuller had to go all in on a position player to take the mound.

Charles Town’s Zach Zyburt, who primarily plays as an outfielder, retired nine straight following giving up a leadoff walk in the top of the sixth as the Cannons rallied back to take a 6-5 victory.

“We were out of pitching,” Fuller said of bringing Zyburt in to pitch following three pitching changes during the fifth inning. “Zach had pitched one other time for us against Aldie and had done well. He was ready to go, and did a great job.”

The Cannons picked up a three-run lead in the first two innings.

Stephen Kerr, Chris Townsend, and Justin Esquerra each singled to load the bases in the bottom of the first. Matt Gandy hit a sacrifice fly to left to bring Kerr to the plate to score the first run of the night.

Charles Town added two more runs in the second inning on an RBI groundout by Townsend and a double by Esquerra that plated Kerr to make the score 3-0.

Strasburg scored a run in the top of the third on an RBI groundout by Luke Wurzelbacher, and claimed the lead in the top of the fifth on a pair of home runs by Sky Overton and Joe Camp to make the score 4-3.

The Express added a fourth run in the top of the fifth on a Charles Town error with the bases loaded to stretch the lead to two runs.

Once Zyburt entered the game, Overton reached on a leadoff walk, but the Express were unable to manufacure another baserunner as the Cannons retired the next 12 batters.

While Charles Town was holding Strasburg scoreless, the Cannons manufactured three runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined to reclaim the lead.

The Cannons loaded the bases in the seventh inning through walks to Esquerra and Gandy and a single by Bryant Munoz. Charlie Pal hit into a fielder’s choice to score Esquerra to make the score 5-4.

The Cannons claimed the lead once and for all in the bottom of the eighth.

A walk to Endris and a single by Kerr on a hit-and-run placed the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. A walk to Townsend loaded the bases, and a walk to Esquerra plated Endris, the tying run. During a pitching change by Strasburg, Andrew Yacyk entered as a pinch hitter for Gandy and hit a deep sacrifice fly to right field to bring in the
game-deciding run.

With Strasburg now facing elimination, Express manager Ben Moore is hopeful to bounce back and even the series today at 7 p.m. at First Bank Park.

“We are at our place and have great fans,” Moore said. “We were able to square up on a couple balls in this game that could have been out at our park, and it could be different.

“We are going to have everyone on board. It’s a do or die game. We have played in those before, and it is exciting.”