The storylines were obvious in this one. Strasburg is in their third straight finals, looking for a “three-peat,” and coming off an emotional walk-off victory last night against Winchester. Charlottesville is in their first finals, and riding a 12-game winning streak. Alas, that streak was to end in front of a large C-Ville crowd.
Strasburg struck first in the first inning, when Turner Buis led off with a single, Brandon Quaranta walked, and both were brought home on a 2-out single up the middle by Tyler Martin.
The big trouble for the South Division champs came in the 3rd, when Strasburg plated 5 runs on 5 hits, chasing starter Michael Dailey. The big blow was Martin’s 2-run double down the left field line, a “fair” call that so incensed Tom Sox pitching coach Sam Bashioum that he was tossed from the game. LT Struble followed the double with a safety squeeze to bring home Jacob Hirsh. Sebastiano Santorelli did the exact same thing, squeezing home Martin. Philip Madonna finished off the scoring with a single to score Struble.
Down by 7 in the 3rd, the Tom Sox got one back when Michael Wielansky ripped a double off the right field fence, and scored when Vinnie Pasquantino spun a double past Martin in left field.
The Express grabbed that one right back the next inning, though, when Brandon Quaranta did what Brandon Quaranta does- blast a home run onto the bank beyond the left field fence. 8-1 Strasburg.
League MVP Wielansky, doing his best to claw the Sox back into it, singled home Jake Allen with 2 outs in the 4th inning.
The Tom Sox made it a whole new ballgame the next inning, scoring 5 runs on 3 hits, 2 walks, and an error. Ari Sechopoulos scored on an error on reliever Lawson Humphries, Michael DeRenzi doubled home Cole Migliorini, and Bryce Windham singled to score DeRenzi. After a Wielansky walk, Pasquantino doubled into left field to score Allen and Windham. Tyler Martin had a solid defensive effort on the slicing hit, cutting it off to hold Wielansky at third, which was a crucial play in the game. Reliever Jackson Ray struck out Jack Barry to end the threat.
The Express made it 9-7 in the 8th when Sean Scales singled, went to second in Quaranta’s 4th hit, a single, went to third when Jake Perry hit a deep fly ball to center, and scored when Jason Hirsh beat out an infield grounder, despite an excellent diving stop by Sechopoulos at first base.
The Tom Sox threatened in the 9th against Ray, when Windham walked with one out, and Wielansky notched his 5th hit with a ringing single up the middle. But Ray then got Pasquantino to hit a grounder to second baseman Struble, who tagged out Wielansky and threw to first to complete the difficult double play.
Ray earned the win with 4 1/3 shutout innings for the Express, while Michael Dailey received the loss. Wielansky led the Tom Sox with 5 hits, while Quaranta had 4 hits and 3 runs, and Martin had 3 hits and 4 RBIs.
The teams will meet again tomorrow night in Strasburg for game 2 of this best of three series!