Many were expecting an easy Tom Sox coronation this evening, as the Strasburg Express were down to three available pitchers, but the announced crowd of 2,154 fans (incredible!) were treated to a nip-and-tuck game that could have gone either way.
Tied 1-1 since the 4th inning, and even though both teams had baserunners on almost every inning, it wasn’t until 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th, when Michael DeRenzi’s chopper up the middle eluded the grasp of shortstop Sean Scales, scoring league MVP Michael Wielansky, that the Tom Sox grabbed the lead for good.
Tom Sox’s Rick Spiers, who came in the game with the bases loaded in the 7th with Brandon Quaranta due up, pitched out of the initial jam (with a nifty play on a comebacker), and then pitched out of more trouble in the 9th, finally getting Jeffrey Butler to ground back to the mound to end it and send the Tom Sox faithful home happy.
The Express initially grabbed the lead with a run in the 3rd inning when Turner Buis reached on an error, went to third on another error, this time on a Quaranta batted ball, and scored on a Jake Perry single.
The Tom Sox answered back in the 4th, when Kyle Battle hit a one-out double, advanced to third on a balk, and scored on an error. That score stood, with tons of drama, until the 8th.
Spiers is the winning pitcher, while Quaranta, the last remaining pitcher for the Express, was saddled with the loss. The Tom Sox mustered just 6 hits, but walked 9 times. The Express were led by Tyler Halas’s and Turner Buis’s 2 hits apiece.
In their third year of existence, the Tom Sox won their first ever Jim Lineweaver trophy in a season that saw the team lead the rest of the league almost from day one. The team finished 32-10 in the regular season, and then went 6-1 in the playoffs. The team changed the title of their Facebook page very quickly after the game from “Charlottesville Tom Sox” to “2017 Valley Baseball League Champion Charlottesville Tom Sox.” Indeed they are.
Manager of the year Corey Hunt said after the game, “I’m just proud of my guys. From the first day they got here to the last out, they’ve worked hard, and come together as a group. It means a lot to them, coming here, away from home, playing 40-some odd games with some guys that you may not know… for me, selfishly, it’s been a great ride.”