After two hugely entertaining games last night, the Valley Baseball League finals are set: the Waynesboro Generals from the South will face the Strasburg Express from the North.
The Generals grabbed their spot by winning a close game three with Staunton, 9-5, but the game was tied at five after seven innings, showing how hard fought it was. The game saw a little bit of everything- a missed third base (Ryan McCarty was called out after scoring for missing the bag), an obstruction call (two Staunton baserunners were moved up a base after the Waynesboro fielder bumped the Staunton runner), a hit coach (Coach Zac Cole was smacked in the leg by a foul ball ripped by Zach Levenson), a hit pitcher (Tanner Moyers was hit in his shoulder by a comebacker), and three ties.
Waynesboro finally pulled away in the eighth inning against losing pitcher Moyers when Jackson Ross led off with a single, advanced to second on a groundout, and scored on a Max Weller single. Stephen Wilmer then made sure the Generals would advance by smoking a two-run home run to right field. Wilmer would be my player of game, as he made two really tough catches in right field, and went 2-4 at the plate with two runs scored and three RBIs. Jackson Ross and Will Prater added three hits each, and Ross scored three times as well. Elijah McCormack was the winning pitcher after throwing the middle three innings in relief of Cole Beverlin. Daulton Montagna finished up the last two innings.
Staunton was led at the plate by a scorching-hot Cole Ragone, showing no ill effects from the bad-hop grounder on Wednesday, who went 2-5 with three RBIs and a home run, and Joey Holiga, who had three hits in the losing effort.
The Generals advance to the finals for the first time since 2016, and last won a title in 2014.
About the North finals game two, Express superfan Mike Grim said, “It was like a heavyweight fight,” and he is exactly right.
Strasburg and Winchester battered each other for close to four hours last night, with the teams combining to score 28 runs, knock 28 hits, walk 16 times, and commit six errors.
Winchester led this one early, scoring four in the first to take a 4-1 lead. Will Long doubled in Nate Furman (who just lives on base), Cristopher De Guzman singled in Ramses Cordova, and both Long and De Guzman scored on an error. The Royals made it 6-2 in the third when Theo Bryant knocked in two with a two-out double.
But the Express showed that it would be a battle, as the Strasburg lineup clawed back to tie the game at six the very next half inning. Graham Brown and Chad Fairey singled, and both scored when Mac McCroskey singled and the Royals defense contributed an error. JJ Sousa singled in McCroskey, and Sousa scored when Eric Toth was at the plate.
The teams traded runs in the fifth, and the Royals were clinging to a 11-7 lead after six innings, seemingly in line to force a game three…. but then the seventh rolled around. The Express exploded (not a good mental image of a train, but still) for eight runs on six hits in the half inning. Sousa brought in Fairey with a sac fly, McCroskey and Ty Hooks both scored on an error, Brayton Brown scored on a fielder’s choice, Ryan Galanie scored on a single, Toth and Graham Brown both scored on a single, and Fairey scored on yet another single. (I’m glad I wasn’t keeping score in this one!)
As if that wasn’t enough, Strasburg added two more in the eighth to make the final 17-11. Brayton Brown walked four times and scored three times, Graham Brown had three hits and two RBIs, Fairey had three hits and scored five times, and McCroskey and Sousa each added three hits. Mitchell Ford was credited with the win after pitching the fifth and sixth innings in relief of Braden Ostrander.
The Royals were led by Bryant’s three hits and five RBIs, and Furman and Cordova each added two hits. Jordan Wimpleberg was the hard-luck losing pitcher (all five of his runs allowed were unearned).
Strasburg has reached the finals for the fifth time in the last six seasons, and sixth time in the last eight years. The franchise last won a title in 2016.
Game one is tonight in Strasburg, set to start at 7 PM. The Express will start Daniel Ouderkirk, while the Generals counter with Landon Ginn.