By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Woodstock had its opportunities against Staunton on Wednesday night, but couldn't capitalize on them in an 8-5 loss to the Braves in Valley Baseball League action.
The River Bandits stranded nine runners in the loss.
"We had some missed chances. We didn't play our best tonight," Woodstock manager Phil Betterly said. "It was just one of those nights. We just didn't get the job done."
The two teams went back and forth throughout the early part of the game.
The Braves took an early lead in the first inning. Blake Sipe reached on an error.
Jermaine Berry's RBI single gave the Braves the lead.
The River Bandits tied it at 1-1 in the bottom of the first. Quinn Nofziger reached on an error, stole second and moved to third on a groundout. An Ethan Williams sacrifice fly scored Nofziger to tie the game.
The Braves took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fourth on a solo home run by Kenny Jackson.
The River Bandits (8-7) struck back in the bottom of the fourth. Scott Burkett and Williams each drew a walk from Staunton starter Josh Rudnick. Miles Williams then reached on an error to load the bases with no outs. Mike Vinson and Cody Harris each had RBI groundouts to give the Bandits a 3-2 lead.
Tyler Mims followed with an RBI double and Andrew Williams had an RBI single to give Woodstock a 5-2 advantage.
"We always battle," Betterly said. "There's never any question that we're going to battle every game."
The Braves (7-9) came right back in the top of the fifth with three runs to tie the game.
With one out, Sipe had an infield single and reached second on a throwing error. After a groundout by Ryan Stephens, Berry doubled to cut the lead to 5-3. Jackson hit an RBI single, and Ricky Santiago's RBI double tied the game.
"I was proud of the way the guys responded after they took a 5-2 lead," Paul Lamarr said. "That was so important, to respond immediately."
In the top of the sixth, the Braves took the lead for good. Staunton's Daniel Wright had a one-out single. One out later, Sipe reached on an error, moving Wright to third. He then scored on a balk by Woodstock reliever Willie Martin.
The Braves added to the lead in the top of the seventh. Jackson drew a one-out walk from Woodstock reliever Stephen Green. Santiago then drilled a two-run homer for an 8-5 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Bandits had a good opportunity. Harris led off with a double and went to third on a groundout by Mims. Rudnik was then replaced by Aaron Johnson. Andrew Williams and Tanner Cimo each drew walks to load the bases. However, there was a passed ball on the walk to Cimo and Harris was thrown out attempting to come home. Nofziger hit into a fielder's choice to end the threat.
In the bottom of the seventh, Miles Williams and Vinson each drew a two-out walk from Johnson. Staunton replaced Johnson with Chris Huffman. Harris grounded out to end yet another opportunity.
"Our bullpen was outstanding tonight," Lamarr said.
In the bottom of the eighth, the River Bandits had one more golden opportunity. Huffman struck out Mims, but he reached first on a dropped third strike. One out later, Cimo drew a walk and then Nofziger reached on an error to load the bases. Huffman got out of the jam after Burkett hit into a double play.
Santiago led the Braves with three hits, and was only a triple short of the cycle. The Bandits had seven different players with one hit each.
"I feel real good overall with where we're at," Betterly said. "We just got to get back at it tomorrow. We gotta keep battling and get back to what we do."