PURCELLVILLE, VIRGINIA-- The Purcellville Cannons (7-16) did their best to try to turn an 8-run deficit into a nailbiter in an 11-6 loss to the Staunton Braves (7-12) on Wednesday night at Fireman's Field.
Trailing 9-1 heading into the bottom of the 5th inning, the Cannons started their comeback on a leadoff home run by shortstop Colton Lightner, which cut the lead to seven. After Lightner's second long ball of the season, Purcellville then loaded the bases on singles by catcher Matt Reed and second baseman Eriq White and a hits batsman for right fielder Ray Hernandez, who knocked a 2-run single into center field to extend his hitting streak to 17 games and make it a 9-4 game.
A wild pitch scored White and a fielder's choice RBI by Sage Bruhl scored Hernandez to cut the lead to three and the Cannons still had runners on the corners with nobody out. However, Staunton reliever Parker Johnson proceeded to strike out PJ Harris, Charlie Watters and Lightner to keep the Cannons trailing, 9-6.
The Braves' bullpen was the unsung hero of their seventh victory of the season. After starter Eric Harp was charged with six earned runs over just four innings, the trio of Johnson, Jordan Silverman and Garrison Vandeventer combined for five scoreless (and hitless) frames to close out the ball game.
Staunton built their early advantage off Cannons' starter Pat Doudican, who couldn't keep the momentum going from his last outing -- a 7-inning shutout of the Woodstock River Bandits on June 22nd.
After an error and two walks, Staunton's Connor Crile, Irving Lopez and Adam Sisk all tallied RBI singles off Doudican in the Braves' 5-run second inning to take a 6-0 lead. Following a fourth-inning exit after two Staunton base hits, Doudican's replacement, Carter Bair, allowed a 3-run home run to Keegan Maronpot to give the Braves an 8-run cushion.
Doudican was charged with five earned runs over 3 2/3 innings, earning him his fourth loss of the season.
Marenpot would extend the Staunton lead to four with a sac fly off Bair in the sixth, and would come around to score the Braves' last run of the night on an RBI double by Andrew Kowalo off left-handed reliever Daniel Gooden in the top of the 8th.
After Onassis Matos reached on an infield single in the Cannons' 5-run fifth inning, the Purcellville bats went cold, going 0 for 16 with 8 strikeouts to finish the game.
White was the lone Cannon to reach base after Bruhl's fielder's choice in the fifth, tallying a 2-out walk in the ninth inning. White went on to win Jersey Mike's Player-of-the-Game honors, going 2-3 with a pair of singles, two walks, a stolen base and a run scored.
It was a scary scene when Cannons' third baseman Tyler Ratliff went down holding his knee after trying to beat out a ground ball in the first inning. Ratliff was helped back to the dugout by his teammates and would not return to the game.
Purcellville reliever Matt Kaster kept his perfect 0.00 ERA by retiring all four batters he faced in the final two innings. Kaster has struck out six and only allowed two hits in four appearances this summer.
With the loss, the Cannons failed to record their third straight win, which would have been a season-best winning streak and finished the month of June with the lowest winning percentage in the Valley League.
After an off day on Thursday, the team will return to Fireman's Field in another matchup with Woodstock, a team they have outscored, 21-5, in two meetings this season.
RHP Matt Copley (0-1, 4.24 ERA) gets the start for the Cannons. Since being added to the rotation after three relieve appearances, Copley is 0-1 in two starts, earning a no-decision in his last outing at Winchester last Friday.
Fellow right-hander Hunter Morgan will go for the River Bandits, who defeated the Front Royal Cardinals, 5-1, at Bing Crosby Stadium on Wednesday to push Woodstock out of the cellar in the North division.
After winning his first two starts of the season, Morgan is 0-1 in his last two outings, losing his last start to the Harrisonburg Turks on June 23rd in a 17-10 final.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 pm.