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Back on track: Express get go-ahead run in eighth for win

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The Woodstock River Bandits’ Jordan Chovanec slides behind Strasburg catcher Cole Martin as the throw to home plate comes too late during Thursday’s Valley Baseball League game at First Bank Park in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

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The Woodstock River Bandits’ Cole Martin puts down a sacrifice bunt during Thursday’s game against Strasburg at First Bank Park. Strasburg won, 3-2. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Woodstock’s Cody Harris smiles after hitting a home run against Strasburg during Thursday’s game at First Bank Park in Strasburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

By Dennis Atwood - sports@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- The host Strasburg Express squeaked out a 3-2 win over the Woodstock River Bandits in a closely fought Valley Baseball League game Thursday evening at First Bank Park.

Both teams came in on significant wins. Woodstock knocked off North Division leader Winchester, 4-2, and Strasburg topped second-place Luray, 11-8.
Going head-to-head, both squads' starting pitchers went deep, each got a solo home run, and the score was tied 2-2 at the end of seven innings.

Woodstock starter Brian King limited Strasburg (9-15) to a second-inning solo homer by Jackson Boyd (2-for-4), his second of the year, then pitched shut-out ball for the next four innings.

But all that closeness between the teams ended in bottom of the eighth, when Strasburg's Zach Wiley (2-for-4) pounded a lead-off single to center off King and Albert Faz advanced Wiley to second on a sacrifice bunt.

George Smith, Jr., a LaSalle junior, then laced a single to right field, plating Wiley with the go-ahead run for Strasburg, part of his 2-for-4 evening.

"I was just trying to get my pitch," Smith said. "I've been struggling as of late and been very passive, so I just wanted to be aggressive today and hit the ball hard."

Josh Wright started on the mound for the Express and shut out Woodstock (11-12) through six innings, scattering five singles, striking out five, issuing one walk and tossing one wild pitch.

The right-handed Wright used an effective curveball at key points, including inning-ending third strikes in the fifth and sixth.

But River Bandits third baseman Cody Harris measured Wright's curve to lead off the seventh by lasering a 1-2 curve over the left-field fence for Woodstock's first run.

Wright then walked Tyler Mims and was relieved by Matt Dybus.

"I was able to spot up my curve tonight, not too often for third strikes, but for early strikes," Wright said. "The ball [Harris hit] was up and when you leave a ball up in this league, it's going somewhere.

"It feels good to be on the winning course for once. I feel like we can put together some more wins, and we can make a season of it."

Cole Martin sacrifice bunted Mims to second, followed by Andrew Williams' bad-hop single past first base, driving in Mims and giving Woodstock a 2-1 lead.

The Express answered in the bottom of frame, with a one-out single to left by Erik Armstrong that went through left fielder Michael Vinson's legs, and Armstrong scampered to third and then scored the tying second run on Josh Gardiner's ground out.

Dybus (2-1) limited Woodstock to a lead-off single in the eighth and earned the win.
Strasburg closer Matt Solter came on in the ninth and retired the River Bandits in order by striking out Jordan Chovanec and Cole Martin, and retiring pinch hitter Justin Weaver on a ground out to pick up his league-leading fifth save.

King (1-3) worked 72⁄3 innings, gave up three runs, struck out seven, issued one walk and a wild pitch, and was charged with the loss.

Andrew Williams went 3-for-4 (all singles) with an RBI, for the River Bandits.

"I thought King competed and battled, he's a great pitcher," Woodstock manager Phil Betterly said. "There's a reason he's a Saturday starter at Ohio State. He has great stuff and he deserved to win tonight.

"We had some points in the game on offense when we could have cashed in, but it didn't happen. We just have to get better at it."

"These last two wins have been great team wins, and we're going to try to just keep it going from there," Smith said.

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