Posted June 8, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Express hammer Bandits

By Jeff Nations - jnations@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- So much for the power outage.

A day after the home opener for Strasburg was short-circuited by malfunctioning lights, the Express showed plenty of power in an 11-1 Valley Baseball League victory over the Woodstock River Bandits.

Strasburg's Zach Wiley and Billy Motroni each delivered three-run home runs to amp up a 13-hit attack.

Oh, and the lights worked, too.

All that power helped the Express secure its first "official" home victory of the season. Thursday night's matchup against Luray only made it to the fourth inning before darkness set in, with Strasburg leading 3-2. That suspended game will be completed when the Wranglers return to First Bank Park on June 14.

Wiley's blast to left sparked a six-run second inning for the Express. Erik Armstrong led off the inning by reaching on an error, Terry McClinton followed with a single and Wiley cleared the bases with his first homer of the season off River Bandits starter James Scott.

"I was sitting on the fastball and he threw it," said Wiley, a rising red-shirt senior outfielder from LeMoyne. "I got lucky and just hit it hard enough to get it over the wall."

The inning got even longer for Scott, as two more errors led to three more runs. The final two came when Woodstock shortstop Andrew Williams' throw to third base to get the lead runner on Josh Gardiner's ground ball instead sailed into the Strasburg dugout.

That six-run lead proved plenty for Strasburg starting pitcher Matt Solter. The right-hander from Furman, making his lone start of the season, pitched six effective innings to earn the win. Due to a heavy workload during the college season, Solter is on a 30-inning limit for the summer and is slated to serve as the closer out of the bullpen for the Express.

"Tonight I didn't really have much velocity behind my fastball and my secondary stuff wasn't really there, but I got some great defense," Solter said. "The run support is always huge. Even when I don't have my best stuff, when I get that many runs it's always easier to pitch. It was just more of a battling night for me."

Strasburg manager Butch Barnes was happy with Solter's start, but he's content to send the rising sophomore back to the bullpen.

"He went out and did a good job," Barnes said. "He'll rest five days, then he'll be in the back end of our bullpen."

Scott held down Strasburg for the next three innings after the second, but ran into more trouble in the sixth. Albert Faz led off with a single, Motroni was hit by a pitch and Gardiner singled to load the bases for Ryan Lowe. The Express first baseman delivered an RBI single, but Scott nearly escaped further damage by inducing Armstrong into a double play. Trouble still loomed, though, as Woodstock catcher Scott Burkett threw behind Lowe at second base on a pick-off attempt. Gardiner, who was at third, dashed home for another run to boost Strasburg's lead to 8-0.

"It was just alert base running by [Gardiner]," Barnes said. "Just an aggressive play."

Woodstock (4-2, 4-2 VBL North) finally broke through for a run in the sixth in Tyler Mims' sacrifice-fly RBI, but Solter limited the damage by getting Grant Melker to ground out with the bases loaded.

Strasburg (2-3, 2-3 North) tagged on three more runs in the seventh when Motroni laced his three-run shot down the left-field line off River Bandits reliever Alex Ott.

"All season we've been able to take care of the baseball," Woodstock manager Phil Betterly said. "We've had strong pitching, strong hitting. It just didn't happen tonight. It was just one of those nights where things didn't go our way from the get-go. We didn't take care of the baseball and didn't pound the strike zone like we normally do."

Jackson Boyd had three hits to lead the Express. Motroni was 2 for 4 with three RBIs.

"It's awesome to have this many people come out," Wiley said. "Great people here, great fans, it's an awesome environment. Look, fireworks -- it's awesome."

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