REBELS_EXPRESS2

Strasburg shortstop Griffin Cheney turns a double play ball as he forces out New Market’s Jonah Seagers at second base during Tuesday night’s game at First Bank Park.

STRASBURG – Things couldn’t be going much better for the Strasburg Express.

The Valley Baseball League team has won 11 of their last 13 games and are doing it by being successful in every facet of the game.

“The team so far, it kind of seems to me like we have a good group of guys,” Strasburg head coach Brock Moss said after the team’s 12-6 win over New Market on Tuesday. “They’re bonding very well. They’re taking to the things that we’re trying to do as a team – offensively, defensively, on the mound. It’s a hungry group. They want to win. They want to work. We definitely are pretty blessed. They seem to enjoy each other’s company and get along very well.”

The Express are averaging seven runs a game and have seven players hitting over .300. They are hitting .279 as a team.

Brett Hawkins (Young Harris College), who was a late arrival to the team, is hitting .400 (6-for-15). Catcher Nick Toney (Florida Atlantic University) is batting .385 (10-for-26). Tyler Johnson (Eastern Oklahoma State Junior College) has four homers and 10 RBIs to lead the team and Sonny Dicharia (Samford University) has three homers and 21 RBIs.

“Our offense is a big part of our game, Hawkins said. “If our pitchers go out there and do their job on most nights our offense will put up about six, seven runs per game. I feel like when we score we usually score in bunches. ...When we start hitting we usually keep it going.”

Tuesday’s victory over New Market was another example of that as the Express scored six runs in the eighth inning to break open a tie game. Hawkins had two homers in the game, including a three-run blast in the eighth.

“It was a pretty good swing,” Hawkins said of his eighth-inning homer. “I saw a fastball, it was middle in. I just tried to get my barrel out in front of it and do some damage.”

The Express has been strong with their pitching as well. They have a team Earned Run Average of 3.74, which is second in the league.

Gene Hurst (Samford University) has been a big part of that success. He has started three games and pitched 15 innings with 15 strikeouts a 1-1 record and a 0.60 ERA.

Hurst was part of a combo no-hitter the Express threw on June 21 against the Front Royal Cardinals. Hurst started the game and went five innings, and was followed in the game by Brian Coffey (University of New Mexico), Evan Rathburn (University of Central Missouri) and Eric Sottile (Samford University).

What made the game extra special was the number of strikeouts. The Express combined to strike out 18 in the game.

“It was not the first no-no I’ve ever been a part of as a player or as a coach,” Moss said. “But it was definitely the first one that I’ve been a part of that’s had that many strikeouts – 18 punchouts. It was just a kind of a dominating feel in the game. We just kind of fed off each other on the mound. Luckily the guys that came out of the bullpen after (Hurst) came out and they held on and got it done for us.”

The Express are 12-5 and have a 3.5 game lead in the North Division as well as the best overall record in the league. Moss said that he’s told his team to focus on the little things and not get caught up in the won/loss record.

“The big saying around here for us is win the sprint but focus on the marathon,” Moss said. “The sprint is each game that we’re in that day and we’re going to do everything that we can to win that game. But at the end of the day, it’s over. And it’s a marathon because we’re trying to be the last guy standing at the end of the season in the playoffs. So that’s ultimately our focus. And once that sprint each day is done, we’re going to try to figure out what we lack that night and figure out how to improve that the following day.”

– Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com