By Brad Fauber
WOODSTOCK -- Runs have been hard to come by for Woodstock during its last three ballgames, and things didn't get much better when the River Bandits hosted Covington on Friday night.
Woodstock couldn't seem to find an answer for Lumberjacks starter Roberto Baroniel, who tossed a complete game five-hitter in a 4-1 Covington victory.
Friday's loss was the third straight for the North division leading River Bandits, who have scored just four runs during that skid. The lack of offense has been frustrating for Woodstock and its fans, but River Bandits manager Phil Betterly isn't too concerned about the recent lack of production.
"We've run into some good arms lately. Our guys are putting some good swings on it, it's just not happening right now," Betterly said. "Our guys have been swinging it all year, so we'll get back, score some runs. I'm not worried. Our guys have had some good at-bats, put good swings on balls, hit them right at guys. And [Covington] ran a good pitcher out there tonight."
Baroniel, making his first Valley League start this season, may have earned himself another start or two for the Lumberjacks with his performance on Friday.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander from Nova Southeastern University (Fla.) consistently worked ahead of hitters, using a devastating combination of fastballs and sliders to keep the River Bandits off balance at the plate. Baroniel struck out 10 batters while walking just one.
The 126-pitch complete game was the first of his career.
"I've always been a starter, so I'm not really comfortable in the pen. I finally got to get out and be in a comfortable place," Baroniel said. "I didn't think out there, and that was new to me. I'm a big thinker, so that was good.
"My fastball is my best pitch, but it sets up my slider, so guys are thinking fastball because they just saw a fastball. They see fastball spin, it's a slider, and they chase."
Woodstock (17-7) put up very little resistance against Baroniel, as the River Bandits had just four baserunners reach second base in the game.
Woodstock had a chance to put up some early runs in support of starting pitcher Greg Ostner in the bottom of the second, as the River Bandits put runners on the corners with one out after back-to-back singles by Steve Karkenny (2-for-4, triple) and Jordan Edgerton.
Baroniel got Kyri Washington to strike out swinging, and Karkenny was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a wild pitch to Andrew MacLatchie to end the inning.
Ostner worked out of jams of his own in the second and third innings, stranding two Lumberjack baserunners in scoring position in each inning before finding trouble in the top of the fourth.
A pair of walks to John Wilson and Anthony Dimino put runners on the corners with one out for Covington (9-18) catcher Matt Emge, who dropped a bunt down the first-base line. Woodstock first baseman Brian Mauro chose to throw home to try to get Wilson at the plate, but Wilson was ruled safe on a close play to give the Lumberjacks a 1-0 lead.
Covington No. 9 hitter Eric Murphy (3-for-4, RBI) followed with an RBI single through the right side of the infield on a hit-and-run, and Demetrius Moorer ripped a run scoring double down the right-field line to give Covington a 3-0 lead.
That would be all the offense the Lumberjacks would manage against Ostner, who went six innings allowing seven hits and two walks while striking out four.
"Greg's been good all year and I knew he was going to give us a quality start," Betterly said. "The guys that came out of the bullpen, they did well, too ... they all came in and did their job. I'm proud of the guys and we're going to get back at it and battle tomorrow."
Covington added another run in the seventh off Campbell Henkel thanks to two Woodstock errors in the inning on a pair of ground balls by John Pilla and Matthew Gandy that put runners at first and third with none out. Pilla later scored when Gandy got into a rundown after getting picked off first base.
The River Bandits' lone run came in the eighth, when Jon Popadics, who reached on an infield single, scored from third on a balk by Baroniel.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com