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Cranford’s single lifts Falcons past Eagles in 11 innings, 6-5

Friday, May. 9 | By Peter Brewington
Travis Croson hit a triple and Gavin Granford hit an RBI single to lead Fauquier over Liberty, 6-5, in 11 innings Friday in Warrenton. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
The Fauquier Falcons entered the night with a four-game baseball losing streak.
Liberty’s psyche was even more battered as they had lost nine in a row.

Someone would get well at a friendly rival’s expense -- but it would take a while.
When it came, in the 11th inning, it came quickly at Athey Field.

Fauquier’s Travis Croson crushed the second pitch he saw to the left-center field fence for a triple, then scored moments later on Gavin Cranford’s ground ball single up the third base line and into left field, giving Fauquier a 6-5 win.

Fauquier improved to 6-5, while Liberty fell to 3-10.

Croson rocketed the second pitch he saw from Liberty reliever Brock Smith for the pivotal hit.

“He threw me a fastball on the first pitch. He threw me the same thing in the same spot. I was going to swing no matter what,” said Croson.

“I knew I was going for three as soon as I hit it,” Croson said.

With Croson hungry to cross the plate and win it, the spotlight turned to Cranford, who also produced. “With a man on third and no outs there are are several ways to win,” explained Cranford analytically. “With two strikes I choked up on the bat.”

Soon the Falcon shortstop, who also shined defensively, shot a grounder past LHS hitd baseman Austin Booth and was racing towards first with his arms up and Croson was crossing the plate.

“It was really exciting,” said Cranford.

After falling behind Liberty 5-0 in the second inning, the Falcons shut out the Eagles the last nine innings.

Fauquier ace Charlie Simmons got the win by pitching the last five innings Falcon starter Sam Tinnesz was also effective: although he allowed five runs in the second, four were unearned.

Liberty entered the bottom of the seventh with a chance to close out the win. Ahead 5-3, starter Logan Aylor ran to the mound confidently seeking to help his team win a game for the first time since beating Brentsville on April 4.

But Fauquier’s Brad Curtis began the inning with a ground single to left. Pinch runner Harry Delavergne stole second on a close play that saw the throw to second dropped.

After Sam Batson was retired on a nifty running catch in short center by Eagle shortstop Bailey Russell, Croson singled to left to score Delavernge, and cutting Liberty’s lead to 5-4.

Liberty made a subtle but significant blunder on Croson’s single when the throw from left field towards second was overthrown, allowing Croson to take second.

After Cranford walked, Simmons singled past Bailey to left, scoring Croson with the tying run at 5-5.

Moments later Falcon Chandler Kezele launched a shot to deep center that Liberty’s Coy Brown hauled in to send the game to extra innings.

The Falcons threatened in the bottom of the ninth and tenth innings before getting the job done in the 11th. “We should have ended it a lot earlier,” said Croson.

The hard-fought battle furthered the Eagles’ woes but perhaps set the stage for their recovery. After all, the Eagles led most of the game, pushing across five runs in the second, three on Smith's bases-loaded double past third that rolled all the way to the fence. As LHS coach Jeff Crane enthusiastically waved Dakota Petrie, Dylan Ramirez and Logan Aylor home, it looked like the Eagles were on their way to winning for the first time in six weeks.

"We fought real hard. Once we got three runs back, we kept the deficit at two and finally tied it in the seventh. Everyone was standing and cheering for their teammates," said Fauquier coach Matt O'Saben of the big Conference 22 that kept the Falcons in third place at 4-3.

O'Saben said his goal is to try to catch second place Eastern View and earn a bye in the first round of the postseason tournament which begins May 26.

He said with seven games in the next 10 days, his pitching staff of Simmons, Tinnesz, Ryan Simpson and Chandler Kezele will get plenty of work.

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