By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- Andrew MacLatchie needed a game like this.
Entering Monday's Valley Baseball League contest against Strasburg, the Woodstock catcher was batting just .190 with two extra-base hits and five RBIs in eight games this season. MacLatchie was due for a big offensive game, and the rising sophomore from Furman University doubled his entire offensive output with two swings of the bat against the Express on Monday.
MacLatchie delivered a pair of home runs -- his first two of the season -- including a grand slam in the top of the third inning that blew the game open in the River Bandits' 11-6 win over Strasburg.
MacLatchie's power display helped back a solid performance by Woodstock starting pitcher Campbell Henkel, who went six innings while allowing four runs (two earned) on four hits, two walks and two hit batters.
"It's just all about the team. I just wanted to help Campbell out. He's a great pitcher and I wanted to do everything I could to help him," MacLatchie, who went 2-for-4 with six RBIs, said. "That's all it was. I just got good pitches to hit and just helped him out."
MacLatchie, batting out of the No. 9 spot on Monday, was quick to make an impact for the River Bandits' offense. With Woodstock leading 1-0 in the top of the second inning, MacLatchie jumped on the first pitch he saw from Strasburg starter Austin Clark, planting the ball well behind the left-field fence for a two-run homer to put the River Bandits up 3-0.
In the top of the third inning, Woodstock right fielder Steve Karkenny ripped a two-out solo home run down the left-field line to extend the lead to four, and Clark then walked Justin Weaver, prompting Strasburg manager Butch Barnes to go to his bullpen.
Express reliever Alex Tucci struggled immediately, surrendering an infield single to Jerrod Groves and walking Jon Popadics to load the bases for MacLatchie. On Tucci's 1-0 offering, MacLatchie sent a soaring shot to left-center field that snuck over the fence for a grand slam to give Woodstock (12-3) an 8-0 lead.
"Honestly, I had no idea it was a grand slam until after the fact. I just knew there were two outs and a runner on third base," MacLatchie said. "I was just trying to get a hit. It just worked out that it was a grand slam, so I lucked out there."
The Express (8-8) rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning off Henkel, who had allowed just one hit through his first three innings.
Strasburg shortstop D.J. Ruhlman lead off the inning with a walk and moved to third on a balk and a groundout by Erik Armstrong. With two outs, Tyler McDonald sent a line drive into the bullpen beyond the left field fence to cut Woodstock's lead to 8-2.
Henkel then hit Trace Vorbeck and surrendered a single to Andrew Kubuski, and a Woodstock error on a sharp grounder by Josh Zumbrook allowed Vorbeck to score. Strasburg No. 9 hitter Terry McClinton plated another run on an infield single, but Henkel got Jordan Tarsovich to line out to center to end the inning with Woodstock leading 8-4.
"[Henkel's] been great all year, and he left a couple pitches up that I know he wants to take back, but this game is about picking each other up," River Bandits manager Phil Betterly said. "When something happens in the field that doesn't go our way, the pitcher picks them up and it works both ways. Campbell was able to pick up his teammate tonight, and I'm proud of him."
Woodstock added a run in the sixth on an RBI double by Jordan Edgerton, and the River Bandits added a run each in the seventh and eighth innings on RBI singles by Popadics and Drew Cole, respectively.
Strasburg managed two runs in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single by McDonald (2-for-4, three RBIs) and a balk by River Bandits reliever Chris Thorsen to cut Woodstock's lead to 11-6, but the early deficit was simply too much to overcome.
The Express used four different pitchers in the game, who combined to allow 12 hits and nine earned runs. Strasburg also committed three errors in the field.
"We looked tired. We were lethargic. You're going to have nights on the baseball field like that, I guess," Barnes said. "We hit the ball OK today. I'm not going to say our pitching staff let us down, they just didn't have their best stuff. And every move we made just went south on us. Nothing you can do about that, that's going to happen. We just have to regroup and come back here tomorrow."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org