By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Willi Martin left everything he had on the field for Woodstock during the River Bandits' showdown with visiting Winchester in Game 2 of the Valley Baseball League North Division championship series Tuesday night.
Martin, working on just two days rest after pitching 4 1/3 innings in relief against Haymarket on Saturday, gave the No. 3 seeded River Bandits six strong innings against Winchester. Unfortunately, Woodstock could not string anything together offensively to back Martin's outing, and the River Bandits fell to the top-seeded Royals, 5-1.
The loss ends Woodstock's season.
"We all wanted to win this game. We were going to do our best and do whatever it takes to win this game," Martin said. "It was just a tough loss. I was just going to go out there and give it everything I had. And I did."
Martin held the streaking Royals (35-13) to just three runs on four hits in his six innings of work. He also struck out seven and walked two.
Martin's only blemish was a three-run second inning for the Royals, where he allowed three hits and committed a throwing error on a routine sacrifice bunt attempt.
Martin was lights-out after the second inning, allowing just one hit over his final four innings of work while working around four more Woodstock errors.
"My goal for the game was to come out and give my team a shot to win," Martin said. "I know [Winchester] is the best hitting team in the Valley League, so I was going to show them that I'm hopefully going to be the best pitcher they face."
Winchester's Joseph Odom led off the second inning with a double down the left-field line past Woodstock third baseman Cody Harris' outstretched glove. Garrett Autrey followed with an RBI single to left to give the Royals an early 1-0 lead.
Logan Moon then dropped a sacrifice bunt back to Martin on the mound, who tried to get Autrey out at second but sent his throw sailing into the outfield. Alan Filauro, the Royals' No. 8 hitter, capped things with a one-out, two-RBI double to right-center, but was tagged out at third trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
That was all the offensive support that Winchester starter David Lidyard would need. Lidyard, typically a bullpen arm, made just his second start of the season on Tuesday and threw six shutout innings. Lidyard took a line drive off his right ankle in the bottom of the sixth inning off the bat of Woodstock's Nick Walker, and Royals manager Steve Sabins opted to take Lidyard out in favor of Charles Neely to open the seventh.
Lidyard struck out nine, walked two and allowed four hits.
"Our offense has kept us in games all year, and the pitching staff just continues to get stronger and stronger in the playoffs," Sabins said. "They have really been the guys winning us ballgames."
The Royals added a pair of runs in the top of the seventh off River Bandits reliever Michael Judge in his first inning of work.
With a steady rain coming down, Brad Picha (2 for 4, one RBI) blooped a high pop-up into shallow left field that dropped in front of a sliding Kohly Hawkins to score Filauro. A sacrifice fly by Jimmy Yezzo gave Winchester a 5-0 lead.
Woodstock (22-26) was finally able to scratch out a run in the bottom of the ninth off Neely thanks to a Royals fielding error, but Neely got Hawkins to strike out swinging to end the game.
Winchester will host Harrisonburg in the opening game of the best-of-five Valley League championship series beginning today. Game time is 7 p.m. at Bridgeforth Field in Winchester.
For Woodstock, the loss stings, but it doesn't negate what the River Bandits were able to do this season.
"I'm very happy with what were able to accomplish," said River Bandits manager Phil Betterly. "These guys were able to take this organization to the playoffs, get the first win for the organization in the playoffs, and then get the first series win for the organization.
"This is a very successful season."