STRASBURG – Strasburg has been a little up and down lately but the Express still control their own destiny heading into the final games of the season.
Entering Thursday’s slate of games, the Express lead the North Division of the Valley Baseball League by 1.5 games over second place Woodstock. The Express were 25-15 going into Thursday’s contests.
“It’s been a fun one,” Strasburg head coach Brock Moss said early Wednesday evening of the North Division race. “I definitely have enjoyed it. From a coaching perspective, it would be a little bit easier to breathe if we had it locked up by now. But that’s by our own doing – dropping some games early on in the season. And kind of on a tough five-game losing streak (two weeks ago) that there were probably two or three in there for sure that we had a chance to win that we didn’t make happen.”
If Strasburg wins one of its final two games, it would clinch the North Division title and the top seed for the playoffs. Strasburg played at Winchester on Thursday and hosts Waynesboro on Saturday. Woodstock (24-17) played its final game of the regular season on Thursday at Front Royal. The playoffs start Sunday.
If the Express and River Bandits tie for first, the River Bandits would get the top seed for the playoffs. Woodstock holds the tiebreaker by virtue of winning four of the six regular-season meetings between the two teams.
“We control our own destiny,” Moss said. “If we win out, it doesn’t matter what Woodstock does. We just got to come out and play good baseball. Woodstock’s definitely been a team – the last three weeks they are on the rise. They’ve got a really good, talented offense. Their top few arms are really good.”
PITCHING WOES: One of the biggest issues Strasburg has faced down the stretch of the season has been having pitchers leave for various reasons.
The Express have lost 11 pitchers since the start of the season. They currently have 13 pitchers on the roster.
“It’s definitely been tough to lose the guys that we’ve kind of lost, especially with the first halves (of the regular season) that they’ve had,” Moss said. “It’s kind of part of summer (league baseball) losing guys unexpectedly to getting shut down for various reasons and that type of stuff. But as management and coaching staff, you do the best you can to try to get those guys replaced. And continue to find the best roles for the guys that you have currently on the staff. And try to fit the new guys you get in the best way you can.”
Despite losing players, the Express still have a 4.03 team ERA, which is second-best in the league.
Moss said that he feels like his pitching staff has adjusted to the changes and new roles and that they can be successful in the postseason
“I feel like as long as they throw strikes and throw efficient innings, we’re going to be able to have a chance against just about any offense that we face,” Moss said.
KEY ASSET: Bryson Horne has been a big part of Strasburg’s offense this season.
The first baseman will play next season at Division II Columbus State University. For the last two years, Horne has played at Georgia Highlands Junior College, where Moss is the assistant coach.
“Bryson’s been awesome,” Moss said. “He’s a guy that offensively nothing surprises me because I coached him in junior college. I coached him for the last two seasons. And as a matter of fact, since he’s been a sophomore in high school I’ve just seen the kid hit. So offensively with him, I definitely feel good with him at any point in the game. Wherever he’s at in the lineup you know that he’s a really good hitter and when he gets going he does some really good things.”
Moss said Horne is versatile defensively and also has pitched in nine games for the Express. He has a 2.18 ERA, with a 1-1 record and one save on the mound.
Offensively, Horne is batting .333 (45-for-135) with 21 runs scored, five homers and 21 RBIs. Moss said Horne can hit for power but also get the simple clutch base hit when his team needs it.
“The kid has just always hit,” Moss said. “He hit seven home runs last summer. He hit another six or seven for us in the spring. The kid’s got five now so he’s definitely a guy that’s capable of (hitting homers). But he’s just an all-around good hitter and a bat that we’re lucky to have.”