The Purcellville Cannons have propelled themselves to the playoffs with a 6-3 victory over the Winchester Royals on Monday night.
The Cannons didn’t look like a team headed for the postseason in the first half of its inaugural season in Purcellville. The team couldn’t put together a winning streak or a winning record.
“What hurt us early on in the season was our base-running mistakes and our defense,” said head coach Brett Fuller. “Our pitching was pretty strong.”
Fuller reshuffled the team’s lineup and roster throughout the season, even making the risky decision to drop a few players who produced good numbers on the field but made problems in the clubhouse. That decision, he said, angered his Board of Trustees.
“I’m not one of those guys that just goes straight by numbers,” Fuller said. “Numbers are important, but I’ve been a coach a long time, and if I just did numbers and nothing else, then my record probably wouldn’t be as good as it is.”
Now, Fuller said the team has chemistry. Halfway through the season, Fuller and his crew decided the team would make a playoff run.
“We didn’t really decide to make a real run at this thing until after the all-star game,” Fuller said. “By that time, I had a pretty good idea of who my quality pitchers were that were going to deliver for me when I needed it most.”
Once he convinced his players to buy in—which included cajoling some players who may be getting more playing time with their college teams—the team started gunning for its playoff spot. On Monday, playing in front of more than 700 fans at Fireman’s Field, they secured their spot at fourth out of six teams in the Valley League North division, beating the number two-ranked Royals and ranking just high enough to head to the postseason. The team carried a 19-22 record—and a five-game winning streak—into Tuesday night’s final game in Strasburg.
“It’s a long season, and I’ve been in this league long enough to know that it doesn’t matter where you’re seeding in the playoffs,” Fuller said. “It’s just getting to the playoffs. It was important for me to put us in a position where we could make a playoff run for these fans, because they’ve been so supportive this year.”
And, as he pointed out, the playoffs reset the record—“everybody’s zero and zero.”
But the playoffs will also test how adaptable the team can be. Like every Valley League team, the Cannons will enter the postseason without several players—some are going back to school, others are being shut down by their college coaches to make sure their arms are fresh for the college season.
But even if it’s the Purcellville Cannons’ first season and first trip to the playoffs, it’s not new to Fuller. Two teams, he says, have made the playoffs in their first season: The Purcellville Cannons and the Charles Town Cannons, playing in the franchise’s previous home in West Virginia.
“We know we have something special here, and we just hope we can build off of it,” Fuller said.
The Cannons will kick off the playoffs in a three-game series against the top-ranked Strasburg Express in Strasburg Thursday, July 28. The Cannons will play at home Friday, July 29.