Express roll to eighth straight victory

STRASBURG — Strasburg showed just how complete of a team it can be on Monday night.

The Express had a stellar pitching performance, a solid offense and defense in a 6-1 Valley Baseball League victory over Charlottesville at First Bank Park.

“We played good. We pitched good. We hit good,” Strasburg’s Drew Avans said. “When the pitching’s on. It’s pretty easy to hit because you know if they make a mistake it’s all right.”

Strasburg starting pitcher Peyton Plumlee, a sophomore from Mississippi State University, pitched six strong innings for the Express and moved to 4-0 on the season.

Plumlee allowed just two hits in six innings of work. He struck out three with one walk.

“I tried to get ahead (in the count). They’re limiting my count. I’ve had a problem with getting that up high recently,” Plumlee said. “I really just tried to dial in, hit my spots and roll over some guys. Let my defense do the work behind me.”

Strasburg manager Butch Barnes was very happy with what he saw from Plumlee.

“That guy’s 4-0 for a reason,” Barnes said. “He’s legit. He’s not overpowering, but he locates everything real well. I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Barnes said he was very happy with all three of the pitchers he used on Monday. Rhett Harper threw one inning, and Kevin McAllister Jr. threw the final two innings. The trio only gave up four hits combined and threw a total of 110 pitches.

The Express (9-1) had plenty of offense throughout the lineup as well. Eight of the nine hitters reached base at least once.

Avans started the scoring off with a two-run homer off Charlottesville starter A.J. Franklin in the bottom of the second inning.

“(Franklin) was struggling in the zone a little bit,” Avans said. “He was leaving it up and that’s pretty much what I was looking for, and he gave it to me on the first pitch that I saw and I didn’t miss it. It was fun. It was nice. It’s been a while since I’ve hit a home run with a wooden bat.”

Avans, who also celebrated his 20th birthday on Monday, played for the Express last year but said he did not hit a homer last summer.

Two batters later, Carter Pharris followed with a solo home run to extend the lead to 3-0.

The Express added another run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Pharris.

“Everybody is a threat,” Avans said. “There’s nobody that can’t beat you up and down the lineup.”

The Express added two more runs in the bottom of the seventh. Strasburg’s Donovan May was hit by a pitch from Charlottesville reliever Thomas Simpson with one out. Tyler Halas followed with a single, and Dylan Ingram’s RBI single stretched the lead to 5-0. Halas later scored on a fielder’s choice.

Pharris led the Express with two hits.

Strasburg, the defending Valley Baseball League champions, has now won eight straight games, and the players are feeling good about the team this year.

“We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder. The other team won the championship last year. We’re trying to fill in those shoes and come back with it and I think we got a good shot,” Plumlee said. “We got a bunch of really good players, a good staff, good hitters, great defense behind us. We’re really looking forward to later on in the season. … We’re rolling on all cylinders here and were going to try to keep it going.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or