PURCELLVILLE, VIRGINIA-- There were only smiling faces at Fireman's Field on Friday as the Purcellville Cannons defeated the New Market Rebels, 7-6, in their first home game since moving to Purcellville last Fall.
"It's nice to kick off being here at Fireman's Field with a victory," manager Brett Fuller said after the game. Through just two games this season, he and his club are quickly finding out the beauty in baseball-- the fact that every day is a new day.
In their season-opener at Front Royal on Thursday, the Cannons fell victim to poor play from their defense that resulted in an 8-run loss to the Cardinals. Friday was a new story. "We'll it's a different feeling. You go from a 12-4 pounding to a nailbiter," Fuller said with a laugh.
A nailbiter it was as the Cannons let a 6-2 lead slip through their fingers when New Market scored three times in the seventh and once more in the eighth to tie the game at six. However, Purcellville was able to respond in their last at bat of the night, starting with an infield single by DeAires Moses, who beat the throw on a routine ground ball to the shortstop for his third hit of the night. He also tallied an RBI walk for the second straight game in Purcellville's 4-run sixth inning.
After Raul Cabrera was hit on the first pitch of his at bat and a wild pitched moved both he, and Moses, into scoring positon, a slow-rolling infield single by P.J Harris was able to plate Moses to give the Cannons a 7-6 advantage, a score that would stand as the final. On the play, Harris was caught in a run down, eventually making it to third when an errant throw trickled into center field. It was a scenario that made coach Fuller chuckle afterward, saying, "fortunately, we had oxygen waiting for him when he got to third."
The biggest improvement on the side of the Cannons Friday was their defense. After countless errors, mishandles and blunders at Bing Crosby Stadium on Thursday, the team played fundamentally-sound baseball throughout the win, starting with a diving play by third baseman Sage Bruhl to rob Rebels' leadoff hitter Bowen McGuffin of a hit in the first inning.
The Cannons ran out starter Alex London, a sophomore product of Mississippi State University to take on the Rebel lineup. London didn't feel too much pressure about throwing the team's first pitches at Fireman's Field, saying pre-game, "I am not too nervous. I just got to go out there and do what I got to do."
The 75th overall left-handed starter in the Nation out of high school, London fared well in his VBL debut, allowing two runs on seven hits and striking out three over five innings, ultimately earning a no decision.
The biggest part of London's night was not allowing any bases on balls, despite falling behind in the count early in the game. In Thursday's loss to the Cardinals, Purcellville pitching allowed seven free passes.
The wheels of Moses in the bottom of the 8th was not the first time he used his speed to burn the Rebels in this game. Sitting on second base in the third, he was able to score on a weak ground out by Harris to tie the game at one. One batter later, Cannons' catcher Onassis Matos, fresh off a 3-hit night at Front Royal, lined a single to centerfield to give Purcellville their first lead of the season, 2-1.
After New Market was able to tie the game off London in the fifth, coach Fuller pulled out a suicide squeeze attempt with the bases loaded in the sixth that was beautifully executed by Cannons' left fielder Jarrett Clymer to give Purcellville a 3-2 advantage. "Jarrett only had one at bat last night and looked at three pitches. So tonight we gave him a chance to get in the lineup and swing a little bit. I just saw a great opportunity for him to lay one down because he is such a good bunter," Fuller said of his decision.
Two batters later, a fielder's choice groundout by Cabrera plus a throwing error by New Market allowed Bruhl and Clymer to score and extend the lead to four.
In the final two frames, cousins Matt Reed and Will Reed (both Purcellville-natives) were called on to seal down a victory and each received a grand cheer of applause from the Fireman's Field-faithful. Matt went onto blow the save opportunity by allowing the tying run to score in the 8th on a single off of Will by Luke Manzo, who led the Rebels with three hits on the night. In the ninth, however, Will was able to retire the Rebels in order and struck out Nicholas Debo with a high fastball to nail down the Cannons' first win of the 2016 campaign.
Fresh off victory number one, the Cannons will stay at Fireman's Field and welcome in the Charlottesville Tom Sox on Saturday Night. Last season, the Cannons and Sox split a double-header with each other on July 6th, 2015. So far this season, Charlottesville is 0-1, losing 8-2 to New Market on Wednesday.
Purcellville is likely to throw their third straight left-handed starter to begin the season as Zach Sloan of Canisisus College (Buffalo, NY) is expected to take the hill.