By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- The three-hour bus trip from Covington was worth it for the Lumberjacks as they topped the Woodstock River Bandits, 9-3, in Valley League action Wednesday night.
The win puts Covington above .500, at 11-10, while the River Bandits' losing streak was extended to five games and their record went to 9-12.
"Trust me, if I knew how, or why, or what, I'd push the button to fix it," Woodstock manager Donn Foltz said. "I still say this is one of the most talented teams we've had, but [things aren't clicking] yet.
"We have not found the big inning, but we've seen the big inning. We've been hitting the ball, but it just isn't falling in as much as we need."
The game was closely contested through the first six innings.
Woodstock starter Oscar Almeida limited Covington to four runs on six hits, four strikeouts, five walks, and four wild pitches in that stretch.
Woodstock took a 2-1 lead in the first. Covington tied it in the second, and took a 3-2 lead in third.
Each squad tacked on a run in the fifth and the Lumberjacks kept their slim 4-3 lead through the sixth.
In the seventh, Covington third baseman Shawn Jackson led off with a first-pitch single to center, followed by a single to left by designated hitter Andrew Caron, with the speedy Jackson taking third.
Michael Manfro came in to relieve Almeida, who gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits, with four strikeouts, five walks and four wild pitches, and took the loss (1-3).
Right fielder Mike Martinez greeted Manfro with a single to left, driving in Jackson and advancing Caron to third.
Woodstock catcher Daniel Rockhold overthrew second base on a Martinez steal attempt, allowing Caron to score Covington's sixth run.
After walking Andrew Longley, Manfro retired the next three batters, two on strikeouts.
Manfro gave up a leadoff single to Covington center fielder Brandon Turner in the eighth frame, followed by striking out pinch hitter Ryan Dineen and getting Johnson out for the only time in the game, with a fly out to right field.
Pinch hitter Paschel Poston worked the count to 3-2 and drew a walk.
Martinez then took a 2-2 pitch and launched a howitzer shot over the left-center field fence for a three-run dinger, his fourth homer of year, to break open the game, 9-3.
Martinez drove sacrifice flies to center and left in his first two at-bats and finished with a 2-for-3, six-RBI night.
"[The homer came on a] curveball," Martinez said. "I was sitting on a fastball. He kinda hung it a little bit -- I just reacted and let my instincts take over and just got a good swing on it. I couldn't have done it without Sherman Johnson always getting on ahead of me."
It was only Jackson's second game in a Lumberjacks uniform, having reported from his sophomore year at Florida State, which played in the College World Series.
Jackson reached base in his first four at-bats, with two singles and two walks, and his teammates drove him home all four times. He flew out in the ninth to finish the night 2-for-3.
Lumberjacks starter Manny Martir (2-1) worked seven innings and gave up nine hits, but only three runs, struck out four and gave up only one walk (the first batter he faced) to get the win.
"I came out here and I had to focus up, because I just didn't feel like I had my stuff," Martir said. "I felt uncoordinated. I just let my defense work for me. Sherman [Johnson] at third was great and left fielder Robby Stahl ran down a big hit."