by Haden Raymer

To sweep a doubleheader in baseball is hard enough, but doing it as the visiting team is near impossible. That task was not too impossible for the Strasburg Express this Sunday night, accomplishing the feat in an interesting fashion.

Harrisonburg’s starter for game one was left-handed pitcher Mitchell Farris. Farris looked dominant out of the gate, allowing only one baserunner in the first via an error by second baseman Matthew Mamatas. In the second, Farris got leadoff batter Tripp McKinlay out, but then struggled to find the zone, walking the next two batters. He managed to get Zachary Malia to hit a ground ball to third baseman Matt Kemp, but the ball got under his glove, allowing a runner to score and Malia to get to second. A fielders choice allows the next runner to score, giving the Express a quick two-to-nothing lead.

Righty Parker Wakeman started off his second inning on a rough note, walking leadoff batter Bradley Bott. Bott later advanced on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a groundout to the second baseman. Bott scored two batters later on a Sam Schner single. This would be the only run Wakeman allowed during the rest of his three-inning start.

Farris continued to impress despite defensive miscues costing him a couple of runs. He was getting lots of whiffs and called strikes, always a good sign coming from a pitcher. The called strikes likely came from living on the edges of the zone, which hurt him as well, allowing four walks in four innings of work. In the fourth, Farris allowed a two-out single to Malia and then walked catcher Reed Garris in five pitches. A throwing error by Mamatas allowed yet another run on Farris’s line, but Farris bounced back and got Armando Albert to fly out to center field.

Strasburg’s pitching took the lead and ran with it, allowing only one more run for the rest of the game. This run came from a no-doubt home run by Turks’ first baseman Christian Ficca. The Express brought in closer Jacob Rosenkranz in the sixth to strand runner Sam Schner, who Rosenkranz had walked aboard. He got Matt Kemp to ground out to end the inning, but this play did not come without controversy. Kemp hit the ball down the third base line and while the umpires and Express third baseman Tripp McKinlay thought it was fair, Kemp and the Turks’ first base coach clearly disagreed, and made sure to voice that to the home plate umpire.

Rosenkranz kept the ball in the top of the seventh, and despite allowing a runner to get the third with one out, he got out of the game unscathed. This was thanks to a great throw by Zachary Malia in right field to throw out the runner at home in a game-ending double play. Rosenkranz got his third save of the year.

The Express’s game two starter, right-handed pitcher Daniel Ouderkirk, tried to set the tone early in the top of the first with two strikeouts. This did not keep the Turks down though, who hit three singles to start off their second inning. With the bases loaded and two outs, Matt Kemp stepped up to the plate. With one run already scored, Ouderkirk needed to limit the damage here and not let the inning and game get too far out of reach for his team. Kemp battled during the eight-pitch plate appearance, fouling off three pitches. On the eighth pitch, he drew his well-earned walk and gave his team the two-to-nothing lead. Although Daniel Ouderkirk’s stuff looked fantastic, the hitters were fouling off pitches all night and he simply could not put hitters away.

The Express would have run away with the game quicker if it was not for the heroics of two Turks’ players. Matthew Mamatas made up for his defensive miscues with a diving catch on a ball that would have easily scored a runner in the top of the first. Reliever Jake Wolf came into the fourth inning with the bases loaded and one out. He left the inning stranding all the runners he inherited. He did this in part thanks to switching up his delivery. This is not in the same way many major leaguers do so, most notably Johnny Cueto. No, instead, he mixes in a low sidearm delivery with your typical 3/4ths delivery. He continued this for two more innings of work with 48 pitches.

It was all for naught though, with Matt Kleinfelter brought in for the top of the seventh to protect a one-run lead. After striking out the leadoff batter, Zack Austin stepped up to the plate. He took the first pitch for a strike and then blasted the second one to right center field for the game-tying home run. Kleinfelter quickly shut down the next two batters, but the damage was already done. Matt Kemp did his best to keep his team in the game, hitting a hard single in the bottom of the seventh, but the rest of the Turks could not help him out and the game went to extras.

Now in the top of the eighth, Kleinfelter kept the ball for the Turks. He allowed a leadoff double to Corey Robinson (pictured), which scored the automatic runner on second. Two batters later, he allowed another double to Garret McMillan, who got thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple. It did not matter. With the Express up two in the bottom of the eighth, they brought in reliever Kyle Demi, who had not allowed a run in four innings so far this season. Although he allowed the automatic runner to score (on a balk after the leadoff batter got the runner to third), Demi cruised through the eighth and looked dominant, showing he can be another weapon late in games for the Express. 

Valley League intern Haden Raymer is a third-year student attending James Madison University. He is currently studying journalism, with minors in mathematics and sports communication. In his spare time, he hosts a weekly sports talks show called The Triple Threat Show and writes for a Washington Nationals blog called The Nats Report