By Dennis Atwood - email@example.com
WOODSTOCK -- The Woodstock River Bandits took on the Haymarket Senators Friday night in a contest of teams tied for first place in the Valley League, along with Winchester, at 7-4.
The game set up as a contest of the Senators' hitting power, leading the league with a .288 team batting average, versus the River Bandits' pitching skills, sporting a 3.59 team ERA, third in the league.
Hitting decisively won the skills contest on Friday, as Haymarket unloaded for 16 hits to power an 11-4 win, extending its current winning streak to four games.
Haymarket lead-off hitter Eric Stamets (freshman, Evansville) took advantage of the short distance to straight-away center at Falcons Field -- 338 feet -- to swat his first homer of the year, a two-run blast in the fourth inning.
"I don't hit many home runs, obviously, so I need the shortest porch to get one out, but I'll take it," Stamets said. "We've been hitting the ball really well lately. We just gotta keep it up."
Stamets' dinger ignited a six-run outburst by Haymarket, followed by a walk, three successive singles and three errors (two by catcher Chris Cowell) as the Senators sent 10 batters to the plate to bust open a tight 3-1 game and take a 9-1 lead.
Haymarket (8-4) third baseman Austin Schultz turned in 4-for-6 performance (double, three runs), improving his batting average nearly 100 points -- from .217 to .310.
Right fielder Yoandy Barroso (junior, Florida International) went 3-for-4 (triple, 2 RBIs, run) to improve his already hefty .400 average to .500 (but with only 14 total at bats).
The Senators' offensive output was achieved without the services of the league's number two hitter, Brant Jones (junior, Longwood College), with a .457 average. Jones was hit in the face with a pitch two nights ago, requiring surgery on his nose, and won't return for several more days, according to manager Ryan Fecteau.
Lefty pitcher Gregory Nappo (senior, Connecticut) started on the mound for the Senators, and worked 5 1/3 innings, limiting Woodstock to one run on three hits, with nine strikeouts, two walks and a hit batsman, to ensure his first decision was a win.
Nappo struck out the side in the fifth and fanned the first batter in the sixth before being relieved by Garrett Cole.
"I was just locating the fastballs, as a big part of tonight," Nappo said. "We played pretty good defense behind me. I got a little shaky in the second, but we picked it up, got those bats going. It's always huge to pitch with a lead. Wes [Walker, catcher] called a great game."
"I thought [Nappo} threw a few more pitches than we would like, and he would like," Fecteau said. "He was still around the zone, but he wasn't getting some calls. I was very pleased at what he was doing out there, for sure. We expect him to be a guy for us the rest of the summer in the rotation."
River Bandits starter Bo Davis worked 3 2/3 innings and picked up his first loss of the season (2-1).
Third baseman Michael Garza got nearly half of Woodstock's hits, with a 3-for-4 performance (double, run), improving his batting average to .400. No other River Bandit got more than one hit.
Woodstock trailed 11-1 until scoring three runs in its last at bat.
Mark Kuzma came on to pitch for Haymarket and was greeting with a lead-off single by Daniel Rockhold, followed by a walk to Kenneth Burns.
Derek Vigoa then got his first hit of the night, after drawing three walks, to load the bases.
Karl Johnston then drew and RBI walk, plating Rockhold, before Zach Tobolowsky hit into a 1-2-3 double play, getting Burns out at the plate and putting a wet blanket on the River Bandits' rally.
But Woodstock (7-5) wasn't quite done, as Cowell somewhat atoned for his two fourth-inning errors by lacing a double to left, scoring Vigoa and Johnston with the River Bandits' last two runs, followed by Ryan Garcia's game-ending strikeout.
"What can you say, other than we just plain got whipped tonight," Woodstock manager Donn Foltz said. "It happens once in a while. We'll learn from it and go on, started with tomorrow night at Luray."