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Fauquier’s Simmons strikes out career-high 16 in win over Kettle Run baseball team

Tuesday, Apr. 8 | By Jeff Malmgren
Fauquier's Charlie Simmons (4), Gavin Cranford (22) and Travis Croson (20) celebrate a run scored during Fauquier's 7-2 win over Kettle Run at Athey Field on Tuesday. --Fauquier Times Staff Photo/Randy Litzinger
Strike out the side in the seventh inning to seal a win.

That was the message Fauquier High's starting pitcher gave to the Falcons' closing pitcher.

It was an effective conversation. Kettle Run's three batters in the top of the seventh struck out and Fauquier beat the Cougars, 7-2, Tuesday at home in Warrenton.

It was also a conversation held entirely in Charlie Simmons' head.

As the Falcons' starter, Simmons allowed only five Kettle Run base runners over the first six innings. Then he returned to the mound in the seventh inning and, like a dominant closer, finished the complete-game effort with a trio of strikeouts.

"I told myself I was going to do that. It was a goal for me," Simmons said of striking out the side. "I put a little more speed on" the fastballs.

Simmons struck out at least two Kettle Run batters in each inning and finished the game with a career-high 16 strikeouts. His previous high was 14.

"That's the best arm we've seen so far this year," said Cougars coach Ty Thorpe, whose team has a 3-2 record. "Great performance … keeping our guys off [balance]. He was dominant with his fastball."

Deceptive, too. Simmons' arm creates tremendous movement on his fastballs. So he mixed two-seam fastballs with four-seam fastballs and occasional curveballs to keep the Cougars teetering.

"Those right-handed batters that were bailing out," Falcons coach Matt O'Saben said, "he's throwing that [fastball] right at the batters and it's running right over the heart of the plate. He's got a lot of run on his fastball."

"I'd rather see that [movement] than 90 mph," said O'Saben, whose team has a 2-1 record. "I actually have an emphasis with him on quality strikes, not velocity."

Simmons can throw up to 89 mph, but he often reduces that speed as a starting pitcher.

Once the seventh inning arrives, however, the senior pitcher removes the governor from his arm.

"He does a good job of conserving energy," O'Saben said. "He was getting stronger in the sixth and seventh inning. … I thought he earned the opportunity to go and finish that game."

O'Saben gave Simmons' the option to pitch the top of the seventh innings or pass off the ball to a Fauquier reliever. Naturally, Simmons kept the ball.

He finished the game with one earned run on four hits and one walk.

Kettle Run scored its only two runs in the top of the third inning to tie the game, 2-2. With one out, Rollin Buffington and Brenton Doyle hit opposite-field singles and then Hayden Lilek loaded the bases with a bunt single.

Simmons struck out Kettle Run's final two batters, but not before a passed ball and wild pitch scored Buffington and Doyle.

The Cougars produced only one base runner the rest of the game, though. So they're averaging only 4.5 hits per game over the past two contest after averaging 13 during their first three games.

"We started out hot and it's starting to fizzle a little bit," Thorpe said. "This was a big test for us. It just shows how much work we've still got to put in."

The Falcons finished Tuesday with only six hits, but they added six walks, and one of their hits was a clutch two-out double by Chandler Kezele. With the game tied, 2-2, in the bottom of the third inning, Kezele hit a pitch over the head of Kettle Run's right fielder to score Simmons and Gavin Cranford, who both reached base on walks.

"My first at bat I struck out, so I was kind of a little mad," Kezele, a sophomore first baseman, said. "I just stepped in there a little aggressive. … I'm not really scared anymore like I was last year."

Later in the third inning, the Cougars expanded their lead to 5-2 with an RBI single by Travis Croson.

"Some leadoff walks on our part, that came back to haunt us," Thorpe said.

The Falcon's seven runs are the most they have scored in a game this season and the most Kettle Run has allowed.

Kezele went 1-for-3 in the game, while Simmons went 1-for-3 with two runs, a triple and a stolen base. Ryan Simpson added two stolen bases, a run and an RBI on 2-for-4 hitting, while Sam Batson went 1-for-3 with a stolen base and a run, and Cranford went 0-for-2 with two runs.

"With the mix of power and speed that we have on the base paths, I think we can generate runs when we need to," O'Saben said. "It gives us the opportunity to have a potent offense."

Kettle Run starting pitcher Jason Alvarez took the loss after allowing five earned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four over three innings.

Offensively for the Cougars, Doyle went 2-for-3, while Lilek went 1-for-3 and Buffington went 1-for-2. In fact, Doyle was the only Kettle Run batter who didn't strike out against Simmons.

"That's the type of performance we expect out of him on a regular basis," O'Saben said of his ace pitcher. "He met my expectations."

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