By Madison Hricik
Running on a clock, the Purcellville Cannons cleared away the tarp to welcome the Staunton Braves for a double-header matchup before the monsoon rainstorms plagued Fireman’s Field. The league has faced multiple rain-outs, but both teams were determined to get a game going.
The Cannons chose right handed pitcher Parker Collier to start on the mound for Game 1, and after a difficult few pitches, the team kept the Braves from scoring in the first inning. Staunton faced a nearly exact situation, and closed out the first inning without a score.
“Our starters have been really consistent,” Purcellville head coach Brett Fuller said. “They’ve been really solid so far this season.”
The scoreboard opened up at the bottom of the second when Purcellville outfielder Zane Faulk sent the ball into leftfield for catcher Devin Goins to score, earning the 1-0 lead. With only one out, the Cannons scored two more runs with the bases loaded thanks to infielder Jack Hicks and his RBI single. Immediately following, Hicks successfully stole second to distract the Braves from a sprinting Faulk who stole home to take a 4-0 lead.
“Once we had that inning we were really able to keep the game at our pace,” Fuller said.
The game grew quiet for a few innings, Collier working on the mound over his four innings pitched. The top of the fourth is where the game changed. Staunton scored two to cut the lead to two thanks to three wild pitches before the Cannons closed out the comeback attempt.
Cannons first baseman Jimmy Goldsmith decided the 4-3 game was too close, and shot the ball deep into right field for a solo home run — but it was all that would happen in the fifth inning.
In a late comeback attempt, Staunton outfielder Ian Diaz sent infielder Justin Hanvey home on an RBI single to cut the deficit to one. With two outs and the tying runner at bat, the Cannons closed out the game with a controversial late throw to first base, earning the 5-4 win.
“I thought our first game was pretty strong,” outfielder Brady Drawbaugh said. “We came out and got some good hits and it paid off.”
In a quieter start, the Braves and Cannons were tied heading into the fifth inning at 0-0. Both teams had opportunities to get on the board, but were unsuccessful.
With a high fly ball into right field, infielder Ryan McCarty notched an RBI double with no outs in the top of the sixth to give the Braves a 1-0 lead. Infielder Cole Ragone also got on the board in the sixth when his deep centerfield double RBI.
“I think that our guys really stepped up in the second game and responded really well,” Staunton head coach Caleb Abney said. “There were some huge performances in this game that changed things both offensively and defensively in our favor.”
The Cannons were within two heading into the bottom of the seventh, hoping to mount a comeback for the two-game sweep. Right as pinch runner Zane Faulk sprinted towards home plate hoping to steal, but catcher Marshall Awtry tagged him out at the plate for the final out, giving the Braves a 2-0 win.
“We just couldn’t get anything going in the second game,” Fuller said. “It’s something we have to fix, but we just couldn’t get our bats going.”
Braves’ starting pitcher Reid Celata earned the shutout win, pitching all seven innings to lower his season ERA to 2.45.
“It gives me a lot of confidence on the mound playing like today,” Celata said. “It was a team effort, and having the defense really step up helped me stay energized and confident to pitch.”
Staunton now improves to 4-3, while Purcellville falls to 2-4. The Braves take on the Charlottesville Tom Sox on Monday and the Cannons will face the New Market Rebels.