Express top Royals, roll to fifth straight victory
STRASBURG – The Strasburg Express kept chugging along against visiting Winchester on Tuesday night.
Strasburg, which entered play with the best record in the Valley Baseball League, built on that mark against the Royals by banging out 11 hits to go along with solid work from the bullpen in an 8-2 victory at First Bank Park. It was the Express’ fifth straight win and 10th victory in their last 12 games, improving their North Division lead over Winchester to 4.5 games.
The Express struck for three runs in two different innings in the win, including in the bottom of the second with a pair of key two-out, run-scoring hits.
“Our key was getting men on base and getting them in. That’s all we gotta do,” said Express shortstop Erick Delgado, who had three hits and four RBIs in the win. “If we don’t leave them on base and we bring them in, that’s all we need to win games because we’ve got great pitching.”
Strasburg (19-6) starting pitcher Keegan James didn’t have his best stuff against the Royals, but his offense provided plenty of run support. The Express took a 3-0 lead in the second inning after a two-out RBI single by leadoff man Haiden Lamb and a two-run single by Delgado off Winchester starter Dillon Brown (6 innings, one earned run, six hits, two walks, three strikeouts).
“I felt comfortable, as soon as we got three runs I knew we were gonna win no matter what,” said Delgado, a sophomore from the University of North Georgia. “I believe in my team.”
Winchester (15-11) chipped away at the deficit with an RBI sacrifice fly from Spencer Levine in the top of the third and another run in the fifth on a Strasburg error, but the Express countered with five combined runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings to put the game out of reach.
Express catcher Jeffrey Scott extended Strasburg’s lead to 4-2 in the sixth with an RBI double into the gap in right-center, and the Express blew the game open with three runs in the seventh off Royals reliever David Lee. Delgado hit a two-run single on a chopper up the middle with the infield drawn in, and an RBI single by third baseman Carter Pharis made it 7-2.
“I think the guy for Winchester was throwing really well at the beginning. He was getting us out early and keeping us to a minimum while keeping his pitch count down,” Scott said. “We finally put together a few good AB’s, a couple hard-hit balls here and there. Just keeping it on them, not letting them hang in once we got the lead. We kind of let them in that third inning but after that, kind of stepping on their throats and keeping them at bay.”
Scott made it an 8-2 ballgame with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, his second this summer.
“That was nice. I told my family the other day after I hit my first one here, anything like that I feel like is luck but that one felt pretty good,” said Scott, one of four Strasburg players with at least two hits alongside Delgado, Lamb (2-for-4, hit-by-pitch, run scored) and Drew Avans (2-for-3, double, two runs).
James, making his third start for the Express, didn’t make it out of the fifth inning, but Strasburg enjoyed tremendous work out of the bullpen. Left-hander Alex Schnell and right-handers Brandon Quaranta and Colin Cristello combined to limit the Royals to just one hit over the final 4.2 innings.
Schnell allowed that lone hit while striking out three in two innings of work to earn the win, while Quaranta pitched 1.2 innings of shutout relief and Cristello struck out two in a clean ninth inning to cap the win.
“Our bullpen has definitely been stepping up here lately,” Scott said. “We get our starters to four or five innings and then after that our bullpen’s been pretty lights out. Just coming in, attacking the zone and then working all their pitches for strikes. It’s about all you can ask for.”
James lasted 4 1/3 innings while allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
“Pitching-wise we had our gun out there and his pitch count got up on him and we got him out of there,” Express manager Butch Barnes said. “… He was in line for (the win) but we’ve got the all-star game coming up (on Sunday) and everything else, and he threw a lot of pitches the last time out so we kept him down this time. But he battled, and when you’ve got a guy that can battle and you still have a lead, those are great. I’m not talking bad, I’m just saying he didn’t have his best stuff tonight and he was successful.”
The Express labeled Tuesday’s game “Mike’s Night for ALS” in honor of the late Mike Whittle, with all of the proceeds of the game going toward the ALS Association to help combat the disease.
Express president Jay Neal said prior to the game that the team had already raised $1,800 in donations. Those wishing to make donations to the ALS Association can do so by visiting ALSA.org.
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com