Express beat Staunton in Game 1 of VBL championship

STAUNTON – Trevor Rucker delivered a sixth-inning grand slam and the Strasburg Express held off a late rally by Staunton to pick up a 10-8 win in Game 1 of the Valley Baseball League championship series Tuesday night.

The win puts the Express one win away from winning their first VBL championship since joining the league in 2011. Strasburg returns home for Game 2 of the best-of-3 series tonight at First Bank Park. Game time is 7 p.m.

Strasburg, making its second championship series appearance in the last three seasons, fell behind early after a three-run homer by Staunton’s William Kinney in the bottom of the second inning. The Express chipped into the deficit with back-to-back RBI doubles by Donovan May and Daniel Midyett in the third inning before Rucker’s grand slam gave Strasburg a 6-4 lead in the sixth.

The Express added insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings. Josh Cushing doubled home a pair of runs and Jeremy Musser hit his own RBI double in the top of the eighth inning, and a bases-loaded walk to Cushing plated another run in the ninth to give Strasburg a 10-4 lead.

Strasburg tallied 11 hits in the victory, including five for extra bases.

The Braves rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning for four runs. A two-out, bases-loaded walk by Nicholas Mira plated Staunton’s first run in the frame, and an Express error – their third of the night – on Kinney’s RBI single to center allowed three runs to score and cut Strasburg’s lead to 10-8. Express reliever Jorge Jimenez induced a groundout to end the game with Kinney on third base.

Staunton, the South Division regular season champion, had 10 hits but stranded 11 runners in the loss.

Jimenez picked up the win for Strasburg after pitching four innings of relief, during which he allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits, two walks and four strikeouts. Drew Avans started the game for the Express and lasted five innings while allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits, six walks and three strikeouts.

Starting pitcher Mark Smyth took the loss for Staunton.