Express top Braves to win VBL championship

STAUNTON – The Strasburg Express are the 2015 Valley Baseball League champions.

The Express rallied from a three-run deficit for a 4-3 victory over the Staunton Braves Thursday night at Moxie Stadium in the decisive third game for the Jim Lineweaver Cup.

The VBL championship is the first for Strasburg, which joined the league in 2011.

The Braves jumped out to a 3-0 lead Thursday night with a run in the bottom of the first inning and two more in the third. Staunton scored its first run without recording a hit as Brad Jarreau led off with a walk and eventually came around to score on a ground out by Austin Edens. A two-run home run by Jack Schaaf in the third gave the Braves a 3-0 lead.

Strasburg answered with a run in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by David McTaggart (2-for-4) that scored Trevor Rucker, who led off the frame with a single.

Express catcher Brennon Kaleiwahea trimmed Staunton’s lead to 3-2 with a solo home run in the sixth, his first homer of the Valley League season.

Strasburg claimed the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the eighth inning. Rucker, who hit a grand slam in Game 1 Tuesday night to swing the momentum in Strasburg’s favor, tied the game in the eighth with an RBI double that scored Josh Cushing. Rucker (2-for-4) later scored on an RBI fielder’s choice by Jeremy Musser to give the Express a 4-3 lead.

Right-hander Colby Nealy started on the mound for the Express and tossed six innings while being charged with three earned runs on five hits, three walks and four strikeouts. Lefty Danny Rafferty pitched the final three innings for Strasburg and didn’t allow a baserunner while striking out three.