Express end regular season with rout of Cannons

STRASBURG – Tuesday’s Valley Baseball League matchup between Strasburg and Purcellville served as a preview of sorts for the first round of the North Division playoffs. The Express will be hoping for a repeat in Thursday’s encore at First Bank Park.

Strasburg struck for 13 hits while five Express pitchers limited the Cannons to six, and the Express rolled to an 11-5 win in the regular-season finale that left them tied with South Division champ Waynesboro for the best record (30-12) in the VBL.

Strasburg, the top seed in the North, will host Purcellville again in a 7 p.m. contest Thursday to kick off a best-of-3 series in the first round of the playoffs.

“Our pitchers for the most part went out there and threw strikes and we played pretty good defense and put a lot of runs on a team that we’re gonna play Thursday, so it was a good win for sure,” Express first baseman Dylan Ingram said.

Of Strasburg’s 13 hits off four Purcellville pitchers, six went for extra bases. Eight of the Express’ nine starters recorded at least one hit – led by Carter Pharis’ three and two apiece by Haiden Lamb, Michael Curry and Tommy Richter – and six different players drove home at least one run.

The Express, winners of nine of their final 12 regular season games, bumped their VBL-leading team batting average up to .291 in the win.

“That’s how we’ve been the whole season pretty much, guys just going up there with good approaches, putting good swings on the ball,” said Ingram, who was 1-for-2 with a homer and three RBIs before taking a seat in the sixth with Strasburg holding a comfortable lead. “I mean, you’re not gonna hit the ball great every game but if you give yourself a good opportunity with good swings and good approaches it’s gonna go your way a lot of the time.”

Purcellville (19-23), which had its five-game win streak snapped with the loss, held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before Strasburg seized control with four runs each in the third and fourth innings.

Lamb, who scored twice out of the leadoff spot on Tuesday, led off the third inning with an infield single off Cannons starter Mike Tang and came around to score on Pharis’ lining double down the right-field line to tie the game at 2-2.

Brandon Quaranta followed with an RBI single up the middle to give Strasburg the lead, and Ingram hammered a line drive over the fence for a two-run home run – his team-leading seventh of the summer – and a 5-2 Express lead.

In the fourth inning, Pharis singled home a run with a grounder to third that allowed Richter to score on the throw with two outs, Ingram worked a bases-loaded walk to plate another and Curry hit a two-run double down the third-base line to give the Express a 9-2 lead.

“I’m seeing it a little better than normal, which is good,” said Curry, who was 2-for-3 with a home run, a double and three RBIs. “I’ve just gotta keep doing what I’m doing, stay consistent.”

Curry hit his second home run of the season in his first at-bat of the game to lead off the bottom of the second inning, a high fly ball to left that snuck over the fence and tied the game at 1-1.

“Dylan’s home run kind of made mine look really weak,” Curry joked. “Home runs are accidents and I just ran it in, caught the barrel with that one and it went over. That was good, that was exciting. Trying to get my swing back and rolling, especially with the playoffs coming up.”

Strasburg, which had 11 hits through the first five innings, took a 10-2 lead on an RBI double in the fifth by Richter, who had two doubles and reached base three times out of the No. 9 spot.

Purcellville scored in the top of the seventh inning on Tyler Ratliff’s RBI single, but Strasburg got that run right back in the bottom half on Kyle Casserly’s sacrifice fly.

The Cannons struck for two more runs in the eighth after loading the bases to start the frame thanks to an error and back-to-back walks by Strasburg pitcher Peyton Plumlee, but a 6-4-3 double play helped the Express limit the damage.

Ryan Anderson started the game for the Express and tossed three innings while allowing two earned runs on three hits and six strikeouts. George Eubanks earned the win after he pitched 3.1 innings of relief, allowing one earned run on a hit, four walks and three strikeouts.

Ryan Johnson pitched two-thirds of an inning while allowing a hit, Plumlee – a starter – allowed two unearned runs on a hit and two walks over an inning of work, and Quaranta threw a clean ninth while picking up a pair of strikeouts.

“When we get up 9-2, 10-2 we need to throw some more strikes,” Express manager Butch Barnes said. “We put a few guys on. And they’re working on things, but I think we tried to be too fine there (instead) of just letting them put it in play and play defense.

“The bottom line there is that we got exactly what we wanted and we’re set up for Thursday, where we wanna be. Everybody that we need available for Thursday is available. Everybody that we need right now for Friday is available for Friday.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com