Express win season opener on the road

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Charles Town started its first game of the 2015 Valley Baseball League season a little slower than coach Brett Fuller would’ve liked.

However, a four-run sixth inning gave the Cannons the lift they needed to not only get back into the ballgame but to also take the lead.

In the end, a four-run eighth inning by Strasburg (1-0) helped the Express regain the lead, and Strasburg held on in the ninth to win, 8-5.

“We’ve got a lot of guys in tonight’s lineup that didn’t get a lot of playing time at their respective schools,” Charles Town manager Brett Fuller said. “So once they get their reps in, we’ll be okay. I hate to burn up as many pitchers as I did on opening night, but it is what it is. When you’re playing catch-up you have to manage a little differently.”

After each teams’ first at-bat went quickly, Strasburg scored the first two runs of the game in the second.

The inning got started for the Express with a single that was followed up by a double to put two runners on with one out. A second double, this one to left field, drove in both runners to give Strasburg a 2-0 lead.

Strasburg added two more runs in the fourth inning when a two-out walk came back to haunt the Cannons by prolonging the inning and giving the Strasburg offense extra chances at the plate.

Donovan May drove in one run with a single to right field and the Express got its fourth run of the game across by executing a double steal by the runners on first and third base.

The Cannons scored its first run of the game, and the season, in the bottom of the inning.

A ground ball to the second baseman off the bat of Sam Fragale should’ve ended the inning. However, a throwing error by the shortstop on the back end of the would-be double play negated what would’ve been the third out and allowed Christian Khawam to score, cutting the deficit to 4-1.

Prior to Khawam reaching base in the inning via a walk, Express pitcher Brock Hunter had retired the previous eight Cannon batters in a row going back to the first inning.

Charles Town took the lead by scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Cannons got two on with one out with back-to-back singles and Erik Garcia’s double down the left-field line brought home a run. After a pitching change was made, Fragale walked and Sid Bream, hitting with two outs, cleared the basses with a three-run double to give the Cannons a 5-4 lead.

“It was clutch. He delivered at the plate,” Fuller said. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. It did lift the entire team, because we had been pretty flat up to that point.”

Strasburg threatened in the seventh inning to score, but Cannons reliever Ari Kaufman pitched out of the jam, inducing a flyout and striking out Brennon Kaleiwahea for the third out.

The Express knocked on the door again in the eighth, getting two on with no outs, but unlike the inning before, Strasburg converted on its scoring opportunity.

A weak single to the right side of the infield with a runner on third allowed the tying run to score. After a fielding error by the first baseman allowed the go-ahead run to score, the third run off the inning came across, putting the Express up 7-5.

That run scored following a diving play by Bryson Bowman in left field for the second out.

Strasburg added one more run later in the inning with a two-out single, to increase its lead to three runs.

Charles Town threatened in the ninth inning by putting two runners on, but could not get either runner home.