STRASBURG — Strasburg has won eight games in a row and they’ve been doing it in a variety of ways.
In back-to-back games last week, the Express won in exciting fashion. On Wednesday, the Express rallied from an 8-6 deficit in the ninth and won with a walk-off grand slam against Front Royal. The next night they beat Charlottesville, 8-5 in 12 innings.
Their ability to win close games is part of the reason why the Express (15-5) are in first place in the Valley Baseball League’s North Division. They have a five-game lead in the North Division.
“This team is a team that thoroughly enjoys winning,” Strasburg head coach Brock Moss said. “They don’t like to lose and they’re really comfortable in close ballgames in late innings. They’ve got belief that the last half of the game they’re the best team on the field. They seem to feed on that type of energy in the late innings and they rally behind each other. They know that if they don’t get the job done that the guy behind them is going to pick them up and do it for them.”
Moss said it’s been different players each night stepping up and that is a big plus for him as a coach to know that he has different guys that can step up when he needs them. He said the depth of the team has allowed him to give guys nights off without it hurting the squad.
“It’s huge because it gives you peace of mind as a coaching staff that you know you can run nine different guys out there every day and have a chance to compete and win a ballgame,” Moss said. “You know that if you go to the bench that you’ve got a good chance of those guys coming in off the bench getting done what the team needs to have done at that point.”
SETTING THE TONE
Strasburg catcher Nick Toney (Florida Atlantic University) is doing a little bit of everything for the Express this season.
Toney is batting .375 (12-for-32) with three homers and 11 RBIs. It was Toney’s walk-off grand slam that gave the Express an 11-8 victory over Front Royal on Wednesday.
“He’s very good defensively,” Moss said of Toney. “He’s very sound, controls the pitching staff really well. He’s a high-energy guy back there. Guys love throwing to him. Offensively, he’s got professional tools. He’s got real strength. When he puts the barrel on the baseball, he hits it really hard and sometimes they go pretty far.”
Moss said that he believes Toney has the ability to be a professional baseball player someday.
Moss said Toney has been great for the Express behind the plate.
“He’s a guy we feel super confident with back there,” Moss said. “He’s a great receiver, he’s a great blocker. We feel he calls the games really well. He controls the running game with the plus arm that he has and his ability to get the ball down to second, or any base as a matter of fact, very quickly. He does just a really good job in all facets of the game for us right now. And he’s just been a huge part of why we’re in first place so far.”
STARTING IT OFF
Strasburg’s pitching has been strong all season and part of that success has come from its starters.
The Express have a team ERA of 3.72. Moss said he’s been pleased with the production of his starting pitching staff.
“The starters have done a good job for us,” Moss said. “Those guys have given quality outings for us night in and night out. And for the most part, besides a few outings, those guys have gone five, six innings of quality baseball. And they’ve kept us in the game or come out with the lead. And we can hand it over to the bullpen, which has done a very good job for us, and given our offense some time to breathe if we needed it.”
Mason Kenney (Furman University) has been one of the top starters for the squad. Kenney has thrown 19.2 innings and has 15 strikeouts with a 2-0 record and a 1.83 ERA.
Moss said they are still working on what kind of order his pitching staff would start with during the playoffs, but he said he feels pretty good with the guys the Express have in their rotation at the moment.
“We definitely feel like we’ve gotten the mix of the five or six guys that we feel like we could run out there to start,” Moss said. “It’s just a matter of kind of narrowing it down to who might be the 1-through-3 per se of the first round if playoffs were to start tomorrow.”