By Jerry Holsworth -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Woodstock got a spectacular game out of two newcomers to defeat New Market, 3-2, Tuesday, tightening the race for the final spot in next week's playoffs.
With just seven games to play in the regular season, and both teams fighting for the last playoff spot, the ninth-place River Bandits moved to within one game of the Rebels, who are hanging on to eighth place.
"We still have our own destiny in our hands," New Market manager Corey Paluga said. "We just have to come to play every night from here on out, and get the job done."
The sparks that gave the win to Woodstock, which also clinched the Grubbs Chevrolet Shenandoah County Trophy with a 3-1 advantage in head-to-head competition with New Market, were starting pitcher Jonathan Painter and first baseman Matt Streich.
Painter, who had just arrived Tuesday in Woodstock, went straight to the mound and pitched seven impressive innings to get the win. Although the Shepherd University sophomore didn't register a strikeout, he scattered five hits and held New Market to just two runs.
"I heard that they needed pitchers and they asked me to come," Painter said. "I just tried to get the ball in the strike zone and do everything I could to help the team. I really got a lot of help from the defense. They were making great plays behind me all night."
The Rebels took advantage of a first inning error to get Kenny Mickens home without a hit to take an early 1-0 lead.
River Bandit Billy Barber knotted the score at 1-1 in the second when he smashed a home run over the center-field fence.
New Market regained the lead 2-1 in the third on a brilliant hit-and-run play by Mickens and Kevin Brown for its only other run of the game.
Brown took off from first on Painter's throw and Mickens clubbed a double off the fence in right-center to score Brown.
Rebel starter Blaine Sims pitched seven strong innings in the loss, but his less-than-perfect sixth allowed Woodstock to score the winning run.
The River Bandits led off the inning with single by Derek Vigoa, a walk by Karl Johnston, and a bunt single by Kenneth Burns to load the bases with no outs.
A single to right by Michael Garza, and an RBI groundout to short by Barber gave the River Bandits the lead, 3-2.
"That's usually the way things go in baseball," Paluga said. "It comes down on one inning, and the team that wins gets the runs they need and the team that loses doesn't. But Blaine pitched a great game, and really minimized the damage in that inning. It could have been a lot worse."
New Market had a chance to at least tie the game in the eighth with runners on first and second with just one out, but a spectacular unassisted double play by Streich saved the River Bandits.
"There were some really good defensive plays out there tonight," River Bandits manager Donn Foltz said. "There was also a lot of small ball too. It was just a classic baseball game, and very enjoyable to watch."
Streich, who was making his first start for the River Bandits, snagged a blistering line drive by Joe Maloney, then stepped on first behind Mickens to end the inning.
"This was a really great baseball game," Foltz said "It was a real pitchers duel, and Blaine did a really great job for New Market, Barber got that big hit to knot the score, and Jonathan came here today, got out of his car, and just pitched a tremendous game for us."