Strasburg spikes Cannons in shortened game

STRASBURG — Strasburg ace Brock Hunter has pitched a ton of innings for the Valley Baseball League Express this season, but Tuesday figured to be only his second decision of the campaign.

“That’s pretty much me,” said the left-hander from McLean and Coastal Carolina University. “I pitch a lot of games, but usually I don’t figure in the decision. I’ll keep it tied, or a run or two ahead or behind, but rarely the win.”

The rare win for Hunter (2-0) came against Charles Town, 8-2, in a game that was reduced to five innings because of lightning flashes and light rain.

He has figured in five games, all starts. He has one complete, nine-inning effort, 27 total innings, 22 hits, 15 runs, nine of which are earned.

Hunter gave up just four hits to the Cannons, who at 7-12 are staring up at the Express (13-6) in the North Division standings. He struck out three and walked none. He threw 66 pitches in his quintet of frames.

“We depend on Brock. He’s what, I guess, you could call our No. 1 starter. He started the season opener for us,” said Express manager Stephanos Stroop, whose team leads the North Division.

Hunter agreed that as June turns to July in the Valley League, it is time that the pitchers took over after hitters enjoyed the first month of the season against arms that were not warmed up from the end of the college season.

“This time of the year, you start finding pitchers who are entering their groove,” he said. “Tonight, I felt like I had good stuff. My fastball was really working for me. When I saw them last, I threw a lot of breaking balls. Tonight it was my fastball” at First Bank Park.

The same could not be said for Charles Town starter and loser Stephen Solomon (0-3). The big right-hander could not corral the hot Express bats, which totaled 11 hits. The same also could be said for his relievers, Mason Aelker and Ari Kaufman.

Solomon, a resident of Harrisburg, Pa., who pitches college ball for Belhaven College, allowed four earned runs in as many innings, eight hits, two strikeouts and two walks.

Aelker gave up the remaining four runs (three earned) and two hits and two bases on balls. He could get nobody out in the Express fifth and was replaced by Kaufman, who was able to retire the side on two strikeouts and a thrown-out Strasburg baserunner.

Strasburg staked a claim on the victory by scoring two runs in its half of the first. Charles Town came back to gain a pair of its own after the Cannons’ Bryson Bowman and Christian Khawan leveled back-to-back base hits to start the fourth inning. Two ground outs and a wild pitch got the runs across.

The Express answered with two of their own in the bottom of the fourth as Brennon Kaleiwahea, Ryan Flick and Donovan May all singled for the home team.

Ahead 4-2, Strasburg laid it on in the fifth. With lightning threatening, the Express nearly batted around. Two walks started off the inning. Then Josh Cushing doubled and Kaleiwahea singled. This was followed by a double to left by Jeremy Musser.

Cannons reliever Kaufman got the last three outs, but the six-run difference was set.

Kaleiwahea, the Strasburg catcher, was the leader of the Express hit parade. He went 3-for-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. He was ably supported by Musser, who went 2-for-3 with the double. He added two RBIs.

Bowman and Khawam each had two hits for the Cannons.