Express bats come to life after rain delay to key victory over Senators

STRASBURG — A two-hour rain delay turned into a real positive for the Strasburg Express on Tuesday night.

Coming out of the lengthy delay, the Express scored four runs in the eighth inning to pull out a 6-2 victory over Aldie in Game 1 of the North Division semifinals in the Valley Baseball League playoffs.

“It’s funny. Noe [Ruiz] our assistant made the joke I guess the lightning woke up our bats,” Strasburg manager Stephanos Stroop said with a laugh. “Trevor Rucker started things off, stayed inside the baseball, got a hit, stole second and then it just kind of snowballed from there.”

The game was tied 2-2 as they headed to the bottom of the eighth when the delay came around 9:08 and the Express had managed only four hits. The game started back around 11:10 and the Express had four hits in the bottom of the eighth to break things open.

After Rucker’s one-out hit and stolen base Drew Johnson drew a walk and Josh Cushing followed with his second RBI double of the night.

“I was just looking for a ball to drive into the outfield and luckily I got it and took advantage of the opportunity,” Cushing said.

Chris Akmon followed with a sacrifice fly RBI and Dustin Wood had an RBI triple. Brandon Harvell’s RBI single gave the Express a 6-2 edge.

Strasburg reliever Jonathan Moring finished off the game with a solid ninth inning.

Strasburg’s trio of Drew Avans, Danny Rafferty and Moring allowed only six hits and struck out six. Avans pitched six solid innings, and Rafferty threw a strong two innings before the lighting and rain came.

“Overall, all three arms did a really good job,” Stroop said.

The Express also got hits and production from throughout the lineup as seven different batters reached base.

The Senators took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but the Express answered back in the bottom half of the inning. Johnson had an RBI single to tie the game.

The same thing happened in the sixth. The Senators took a 2-1 lead, but the Express scored in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI double by Cushing.

“I’ve been working on some things, and it’s clicking at the right time,” Cushing said. “And hopefully we can make a run in the playoffs.”

Cushing and Johnson led the Express with two hits each.

The Express have been playing better over the last few weeks, and carried the momentum into the first game of the playoffs. Strasburg will play at Aldie tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. in the second game of the best-of-three series.

“It’s good momentum. It’s always nice to get that first one and hopefully keep things rolling for the next week or so,” Cushing said. “We went through a rough patch [earlier in the season] and we finished stronger than we were playing, but I think our best baseball is to come and hopefully we can keep it going.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com