By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WOODSTOCK -- The matchup between the top two teams in the Valley League lived up to expectations on Wednesday night.
Woodstock rallied from a run down in the ninth en route to a 3-2, 13-inning win over Staunton.
"We knew it would be a good ballgame between the two first-place clubs," Woodstock manager Phil Betterly said. "I'm really proud of our guys tonight. Staunton has a real good team, and we were fortunate to come out with a win tonight."
With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 13th, Woodstock's Jerrod Groves was hit by a pitch, and Justin Weaver then reached on an error. Staunton relief pitcher Jamison Cardwell intentionally walked Jon Popadics to load the bases. Cardwell then threw a wild pitch to Andrew MacLatchie, which scored Groves with the game-winning run.
"I tip my hat to Woodstock. They were able to finish the game off," Staunton manager George Laase said. "They took advantage of their opportunities."
The Braves, who only had three hits in the game, had the chance to finish the game off in the bottom of the ninth as they had a 2-1 lead. Jordan Edgerton led off with a single off Staunton reliever Nick Corbin. Kyri Washington and Groves each reached on bunt singles to load the bases with no outs.
A groundout RBI by Justin Weaver tied the game at 2-2. Corbin was able to get out of trouble by striking out pinch-hitter Brian Mauro, and Nick Walker hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
"This team just has a never-give-up attitude," Walker said. "We always believe we can come back and string some hits together."
Walker started the scoring for the River Bandits with a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning off Staunton starter James Reeves.
"I've been seeing the ball well," Walker said. "I just wanted to get a good swing on it and try to hit the ball as hard as I can."
Reeves pitched eight solid innings for the Braves, allowing just five hits and striking out five.
As good as Reeves was, Woodstock's pitching was even better on Wednesday night. Woodstock starting pitcher Campbell Henkel went seven innings, allowing only one hit and striking out seven.
"Campbell gave us a great start," Betterly said. "He wanted to go back out there. He's a competitor. He gave us a chance to win. The bullpen came in behind him and did a great job."
Woodstock relievers Richard Winters, Greg Ostner and Chris Thorsen combined for six innings of relief, allowing only two hits and striking out six.
The Braves (10-4) tied the game in the top of the sixth. Staunton's Blake Sipe drew a two-out walk and then stole second. Phil Lipari followed with an RBI single, the first hit of the game off Henkel.
The Braves broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the eighth. Staunton's Tommy Williams led off with a double off Winters. Kurt Wertz Jr. then reached on an error, which scored Williams.
Laase said it was important for his team to bounce back from the loss.
"This one loss will not define our season," Laase said. "It's important that we learn from this game and advance to tomorrow."
Walker, Edgerton and Groves each had two hits to lead the River Bandits. Woodstock (9-2) has the best record in the league, and has won nine of its last 10 games.
Betterly said the win over Staunton was a real good one for the team and their confidence.
"It's a long season, but this gives us a lot of confidence," Betterly said. "Now the guys know what it's like to be in a tight ballgame, and they know when we get in more games like this that we can get it done."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org