Teams primed and ready for VBL playoffs

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

Woodstock and New Market won’t go into the postseason with any recent pressure games. Both Valley Baseball League teams clinched playoff spots early this week. Strasburg, on the other hand, had to scrap and claw to earn its playoff berth, and manager Butch Barnes is just fine with that.

“This team just battles,” Barnes said. “We’ve had some comeback wins. Those types of games are good to have.”

All three teams will have enough time to get their pitching rotations set up they way they want it for the playoffs, which begin Sunday. The first and second rounds of the playoffs will be best two-out-of-three series, with the championship being a best-of-five series.

Entering Friday’s games Strasburg could be seeded anywhere from second to fourth in the North Division semifinals.

Barnes said it didn’t really matter to him where the Express wound up.

“Wherever we’re at, I like our matchups in our division,” Barnes said. “I like all the coaches in our division, and I like the other ones, too. Bobby [Rauh] in Charles Town, Phil [Betterly] in Woodstock and Erik [Lemley] in Aldie — we’ve all gotten along all year long.”

Strasburg (21-21) played at Rockbridge on Friday and hosts New Market today. Aldie (21-21) hosted Front Royal on Friday and plays at Winchester today. If Strasburg and Aldie would win both games they would be tied with Charles Town (23-21) for second place.

Woodstock (26-16) is in great shape heading into the postseason.

The top-seeded River Bandits have home-field advantage throughout the divisional playoffs. Woodstock manager Phil Betterly said it’s definitely nice to be playing at home.

“We love to play at home,” Betterly said. “I’ve heard visiting teams say Woodstock is a tough place to play. We feel comfortable at home. I think it’s a huge advantage playing at home.

“The sun sets in center field and that can be tough, but our guys are used to it.”

Betterly said like most teams they had a few players leave, but they’ve been able to replace them and should have a full 25-man roster for the playoffs.

Unlike Strasburg and Woodstock, New Market not only knows its seeding but also who it will play in the South Division semifinals. The Rebels, the No. 2 seed, will play third-seeded Staunton in the first round. The Braves went 5-1 this against the Rebels (28-15).

“They’ve had our number up until [a 2-0 New Market win on Tuesday],” New Market manager C.J. Rhodes said. “We haven’t been able to get over the hump with them until [Tuesday]. I think that adds a little bit to it, just because it’s tough to beat a team that many times and I think that plays into our favor a little bit.

“They’re going to be super well-coached. They’re going to be able to execute on offense and on defense. I think it’s going to be two or three really, really good games.”

Rhodes said he likes how his team is playing, and he thinks the key to success in the playoffs will be for the players to do what they’ve been doing all season.

“It’s just about sticking to the routine we’ve had,” Rhodes said. “Everybody just needs to do the jobs they’ve done all year. I think if we do those things, and show up on those days ready to take advantage of the opportunities that we get, I think we have a good chance of making it hopefully pretty far.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com