Charles Town enters first-round playoff series against Staunton
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – The Charles Town Cannons have been a model of consistency all season.
Now, team president and field manager Brett Fuller just wants the Cannons to get hot.
Charles Town was scheduled to open the first round of the Valley Baseball League playoffs after press time Tuesday on the road in Staunton, Va., facing a Braves team that the Cannons have struggled against all season.
Regardless of last night’s outcome, Charles Town is scheduled to host Staunton at 7 p.m. tonight at Sager Field at Jefferson High School in Game 2 of a best-of-three series with the eventual winner advancing to the semifinals of the summer collegiate league playoffs.
Charles Town, in its second year in the VBL after relocating from Luray, Va., finished the regular season 23-19 and ranked No. 5 in the 11-team league. The top eight teams qualified for the postseason.
Last summer, the Cannons became the first-ever first-year franchise to reach the playoffs, where they were ousted following two consecutive losses to Strasburg. Charles Town is the only team from West Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley-based wooden bat summer collegiate league in neighboring Virginia.
“We played even keel all year,” Fuller said. “We never had a four-game winning streak, but we never had a four-game losing streak either. We hovered around the .500 mark pretty much the whole way.
“At one point we were seven games over, but we lost some pitching and our bullpen wasn’t as productive as I would have liked to see them be,” Fuller continued. “That’s the reason for our recent skid. Having said that, all eight teams going into the playoffs are 0-0.”
The Cannons dropped six of their past 10 games entering the playoffs, but closed the regular season with a 6-1 victory Sunday night at home against No. 6 Strasburg.
Teams reaching the postseason – in order from the top – include Harrisonburg (29-13), Waynesboro (27-16), Front Royal (26-17), Staunton (25-18), Charles Town (23-19), Strasburg (21-22), Aldie (19-25) and Covington (18-24).
Winchester (17-27), Woodstock (15-26) and New Market (15-28) did not qualify for the playoffs.
As would be expected of a team with such a balanced record, Charles Town ranked in the middle of the pack both as far as overall hitting (.262 batting average) and pitching (4.14 earned run average) are concerned.
While the Cannons dominated some teams, including sweeping regular season pennant champion Harrisonburg in four games this season, their opponent in the first round of the playoffs was not one of them.
Staunton swept Charles Town in four games this season, including a doubleheader July 19 in at Sager Field in Shenandoah Junction.
“Staunton is the one team that has a legitimate shot to win this whole thing if it isn’t us,” Fuller said. “They hit the ball as well as any team in the league and because they’re able to put so many runs on the board it’s hard to go into a game knowing you’re going to need about eight runs to have a shot to win it.”
The Cannons were scheduled to pitch lefthander Jean Acevedo (2-3, 3.95 ERA) in Game 1 at Staunton.
Righthander Jack Charleston (3-2, 2.96) is slated to get the start tonight.
But even before the playoffs began, the Cannons lost talented leadoff hitter and center fielder Justin “Hooty” Harris, who led the league in stolen bases (31) and ranked third in runs scored (41).
Harris, a rising senior at Emporia State University (Kansas), returned home on Monday to participate in a baseball showcase tournament playing before professional scouts.
Yet Charles Town retains the services of three VBL All-Star selections, including shortstop Stephen Kerr (.296) and catcher Matt Gandy (.274).
Also adding to a potent lineup, left fielder Andrew Yacyk (.277) closed the regular season with a league-best eight home runs and batted a scorching .409 during the final five games of the season.
All-Star pitcher Jacob “Goose” Anthony (3-2, 4.24) will be called upon to anchor the bullpen.
“One thing we’ve done, that a lot of teams in the league have not done, is remain consistent,” Fuller said. “Something is to be said for consistency. Hopefully, we’ll advance this year. That’s the goal (assistant) coach (Mike) Smith and I set going forward. Showing progression. If nothing else, get our first playoff win and build from there.”