By: Shelby Dermer (Cannons' broadcaster and beat writer)
PURCELLVILLE, VIRGINIA-- The defending VBL-champion Strasburg Express ended the Purcellville Cannons' first season in Loudoun County with a 5-1 series-clinching victory on Sunday night at Fireman's Field.
Purcellville struck first in the third inning when Tyler Ratliff blooped a 2-out RBI single to right field that allowed Denathan Dukes to cross and give the Cannons a 1-0 lead.
Cannons' left-handed hurler Pat Doudican was cruising through the Express lineup for most of the game, striking out eight batters in the first five innings. However, the southpaw ran into trouble in the top of the seventh, walking leadoff man Dylan Ingram and second baseman Jefferey Scott with a single by centerfielder Jacob Tisevich sandwiched in between the two free passes.
With the bases loaded and one out, Cannons' manager Brett Fuller brought in RHP Matt Kaster to try to preserve the 1-0 advantage. With two strikes on designated hitter Kyle Casserly, Kaster's fastball was hit off home plate and bounced very high up in the air, eliminating the chance of a double play. Ingram scored easily to tie the game at one, but as shortstop Tommy Ziegen came down with the ball and fired to first for the out, Tisevich never broke stride, wheeling all the way from second and beating the relay throw from Wade Arduini to the plate and diving around catcher Matt Reed to give Strasburg a 2-1 lead.
After Kaster allowed a pair of base runners to begin the 8th, Fuller once again turned to his bullpen and sent out closer Will Reed, who had not allowed a run since June 25th. After Reed set down the first two batters on strikes, catcher Michael Curry delievered the dagger to the Cannons' season, launching a 3-run home run to left field to push Strasburg's lead to four.
Purcellville's offense was shut down for most of the night, failing to threaten outside the third inning when they scored their lone run. RHP Brandon Dum tossed a season-high eight innings, yielding just four hits and allowing one run. He would pick up the victory.
In the bottom of the ninth, Strasburg reliever Brandon Quaranta allowed hits to Arduini and Dukes to put two on and two out, but got pinch-hitter Andrew Zban to pop up to end the game and the Cannons' season.
Strasburg will return home to face the Front Royal Cardinals in the semifinals tomorrow at First Bank Park. Front Royal defeated the Winchester Royals, 3-2, at Bing Crosby Stadium on Monday to complete their own first-round sweep.
The Cannons finish their first season in Purcellville with an overall record of 19 wins and 25 losses. As a franchise, they have now made the playoffs in three of the last four years.