By Jerry Holsworth - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Nathan Minnich crushed three home runs, including a third-inning grand slam, to lift Winchester to a convincing 20-6 win over Woodstock Monday in each team's last regular season Valley League game.
"I really don't know how that happened," Minnich said. "I was just trying to put wood on the ball and put it in play. It was a pretty special night though, to say the least."
For the River Bandits, who led 3-0 after a half inning of play, it was a disappointing conclusion to an equally disappointing season. Woodstock, which finished the season on a five-game losing streak, was the victim of an unbelievable performance by the Royals at the plate.
"There's not much you can say about this," River Bandits manager Donn Foltz said. "I thought that the guys put out a good effort throughout the season and we had several players like Michael Garza who played their hearts out. He's been nursing a bad hamstring among other things so we held him out tonight."
Garza finished the season with a .388 batting average, which was good enough to finish second in the Valley League behind the Royals' Cory Spangenberg.
The Royals, whose 20 runs were the most they scored in one game this year, head into the playoff today against Harrisonburg with a three-game winning streak.
"This was about as well as you could expect to end the season," Royals manager John Lowery Sr. said. "We are heading into the playoffs hitting the ball well and we got to rest several of our players tonight, and they should be ready to go tomorrow."
The River Bandits started things off as if they were going to end the season on a positive note. Buddy Sosnoskie, Foster Dunigan, and Chris Cowell abused Royals starting pitcher Britton Quayle in the first inning. Sosnoskie led off with a single to center, and Dunigan and Barber followed with back-to-back homers to put Woodstock ahead, 3-0.
It was only the beginning of a flurry of home runs by both teams.
Winchester got a pair of homers in the bottom of the second. Minnich drilled a solo homer over the fence in right center, and Matt Faiman followed with one over the right-field fence.
Barber responded with his second homer for the night, a solo shot over the center-field fence in the third, giving the River Bandits what looked like a solid 5-3 lead.
With the game heading into the bottom of the third, Quayle had managed to get things under control, but Woodstock starter Jonathan Painter completely fell apart on the mound after pitching respectably in the first two innings.
Hits by Kevin Brashears and Spangenberg, and a walk by Raymond Church loaded the bases with no outs for Cody Gaskill, who singled in Brashears. When Colby Gratton walked to load the bases again Minnich smashed his second homer of the game to put the Royals ahead, 9-5. The Shepherd University junior finished the night 4-for-5 at the plate with three home runs, a double, and seven RBIs.
"This was a really good way to end the season and set things up for the playoffs," Minnich said. "We're all playing well now, and we have a lot of confidence in ourselves."
Painter took the loss for Woodstock giving up nine runs on six hits while walking four and striking out just one Winchester batter. Quayle got the win, allowing five runs on seven hits.
Things didn't go well for J.D. Ingalls and Alex Maffett, who relieved Painter. The Royals scored four runs in the fourth, two in the fifth, four in the sixth, and another run in the eighth. The only inning in which the River Bandits were able to get Winchester out without a run was the seventh.