Arms Race

Starting pitching keeps Cannons afloat

The Charles Town Cannons have been up in arms.Pitching arms, that is. Through the decades, some responsible Major League people have contended that baseball is 90-percent pitching. Even the ultra-consevatives in the game believe that pitching is at least 75-percent of the sport.

[cleeng_content id="199910067" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]And in Charles Town’s case, its a good thing pitching does often dominate any game.

Chris Payne, Alex Hackerott, Adam Parks, David Rumsey and Jake Johnson have provided the first-year team with numerous solid performances. And it’s a good thing because the Cannons don’t have the sort of offense to build a successful 40-plus game season around.

The release of outfielder Ty Michelotti and infielder Hayden Cronenbold further diminished an often missing Cannons’ offense that now strains to score runs.

Newly-signed Cody Hoffner, Waldyvan Estrada, Matt Durst and Tyler Hibbert give the Cannons some offensive punch . . . but with Spence Rahm at .171, Shane Ammon at .268, Kraig Kelly at .139, Brent Williams at .195, Luke Stewart .213, Emmanuel Marrero at .235, L.K. Thompson at .217 and Dillon Cooper at .250 and all struggling at times with their wood-bat offense, the Cannons could never have gone through a nine-game span with eight wins without their starting pitchers.

After 18 games through June 21, Charles Town wasn’t even treading water. The record was only 8-10 and a fifth-place spot in the North Division standings threatened to keep the team from even qualifying for the postseason playoffs that accepted the top four teams in each of the two divisions.

That’s when the pitchers and a usually acceptable defense gave the Cannons a string of wins that catapulted them from fifth place into second place behind only hard-charging Woodstock.

Parks (Liberty University), who joined the team only after the season was already weeks along, pitched a seven-inning perfect game against Woodstock. His record was 3-1 and his ERA was a microsopic 1.38.

Payne (George Mason University last season) lowered his ERA to a near-spotless 0.65 after five innings of shutout work on June 26 against Strasburg that he followed with another six shutout innings on July 2 against Rockbridge. His run support was such that he had to settle for “no decisions” in both those games that Charles Town eventual won. He was 2-0 in the few decisions he had in his five starts.

Hackerott had a 3-1 record and a 1.74 ERA after coming aboard in mid-June when his Oklahoma State Cowboys team was through after playing in an NCAA Tournament four-team Regional.

Johnson (Neosho County Community College) had three wins and a 2.11 ERA in games through June. He was dealt several losses during the very early part of the schedule before Durst and Estrada began to drive in runs and Michelotti and Cronenbold were still on the team roster.

Rumsey (Sam Houston State) picked up two wins in relief before being elevated to his current role as a starter. He was 2-0 and his ERA was 2.93 when the Cannons were 16-12 overall and riding along in second place on July 5.

In the last three weeks, the Cannons have only rarely suffered the malaise of a poorly pitched game.

If they are to overtake Woodstock in the North Division scheme of things to win the North it will be because the starting pitchers are continuing to baffle the opposition batters.

Figuring in the batting averages of both Michelotti and Cronebold, the Cannons had a .266 team batting average in games through July 5. Removing the .300-plus average of Michelotti and Cronenbold’s .271 mark and Charles Town’s average dipped to .258.

The Cannons are now moving along with arms raised.

And if baseball is really 90-percent pitching then they have a good chance to at least reach the Valley Baseball League playoffs in late July as the second-place team in the circuit’s North Division.[/cleeng_content]

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