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Cannons ride Kerr, Harris, enough pitching into playoffs

By Staff | Jul 25, 2014

The draining effects of the Valley Baseball League regular season are taking hold of the 11 teams in the summer collegiate circuit.

Riding buses has become an accustomed way of life for the college players trying to improve their game and impress their college mentors at the same time.

And tired though they may be, the players on the teams located as far away from Jefferson County as Covington and Staunton in Virginia can finally see the playoffs just off in the distance.

All the league’s coaches talk about the playoffs. The general managers, concessionaires, public address announcers and bat boys do the same.

The 44-game regular season grind of taking to Interstate-81 all too often is about to close. Positioning for the playoffs is at hand.

And the three-tiered playoffs are all that anybody will remember when the season is completed by mid-August.

Remembering which team had the best regular season record won’t matter.

Only the playoff champion will have its name entered into the all-time records logged by age-old Valley Baseball League, the summer circuit where the Charles Town Cannons are in their second season.

The league’s web site will proudly call attention to the celebratory scene where the playoff winner gathers its team around for a photograph with the players all waving their index fingers indicating they are No. 1.

If Harrisonburg, just a half-game in front of Front Royal on Monday with a week left in the regular season, wards off the Cardinals’ bid for the top seed in the playoffs and goes on and takes the championship they might trumpet the value of the first 44 games.

But if another of the eight teams that qualify for the playoffs goes through early August with enough majesty (and pitching) to take the championship, then the regular season bus rides will be remembered only because they made the players tired.

With the regular season ending on Monday, July 28, the Cannons have clinched a playoff berth.

Charles Town was in fourth place with its 21-15 record, comfortably in front of the sixth-through-eighth place teams — Strasburg (17-20), Covington (16-19) and Aldie (16-22). The Waynesboro Generals were in fifth place, only a half-game in back of the Cannons.

As of Monday, Winchester (14-22), New Market (14-23) and Woodstock (13-23) were in danger of missing the playoffs.

All the playoff rounds are best two-of-three series. The higher seeded team gets the first game of any round on their home field. If a third game is needed to decide a series, that game is also on the home field of the higher seeded team.

Charles Town has gone through its summer with a large number of roster changes. Some players have incurred injuries that have stopped their season. Others have sought more playing time elsewhere and left for home.

The Cannons have seen nine pitchers released from their roster for various reasons.The team has used 25 pitchers in all and 14 different starters. Pitchers want innings when they report to a summer team. If they don’t get those innings they desire — or if they are unproductive — they move off the roster and make way for another arm.

Only two of the position players have been removed from the active roster.

Infielder Stephen Kerr had appeared in all 36 games through July 20 and he was hitting .324.

Outfielder Justin Harris had been in 29 games with his .306 batting average. Infielder Justin Esquerra had a .295 average in his 28 games. Playing in far fewer games were Zach Zyburt (15 games and a .314 average) and Bryan Munoz (18 games and a .300 average).

Both catcher Matt Gandy and infielder/outfielder Andrew Yacyk (North Hagerstown High School) had appeared in 29 games.

The Cannons were still searching for help in the outfield where William Endris (32 games, .192 average), Austin Bream (20 games, .148 average), Andrew Mulato (19 games, .125 average) had struggled all summer.

Two starting pitchers (Stephens — 6 starts with a 3-0 record and 1.77 earned run average — and Otey — 4 starts and a 3-1 record) were no longer on the active roster.

Jean Acevedo and Jacob Anthony had each made five starts while Jack Charleston (4 starts) and mid-season acquisition Mike Scimanico from Shenandoah University (three starts) were in the rotation.

Shepherd right-hander Bryan DiRosario was having more success in the Valley League than he did with the Rams this past season. DiRosario had been in eight games, pitching a very limited number of innings but also sporting a 1.42 earned run average. He appeared in only one Shepherd game during the last weeks of the regular season, the Mountain East Conference tournament and the Atlantic Region tournament.

The Cannons have positioned themselves to be included among the eight playoff teams. If they win three consecutive playoff series and the playoff championship, nobody will remember where they finished in the regular season. If they are chased out of the playoffs without a championship, only a few front office faces and coaches will remember what the regular season record was . . . or how many thousands of miles were logged on the buses they rode through the long summer nights on Interstate-81.