River Bandits ready to defend North Division title

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

WOODSTOCK — Woodstock only has one player returning from last year’s team, but River Bandits coach Phil Betterly already see some of the same similarities with this year’s Valley Baseball League squad.

“They’re a group of guys that just loves to play baseball,” Betterly said at practice Wednesday afternoon. “They show up early, and they want to work. I saw that last year too. That’s very exciting to see, and I think if they continue to do that we’re going to have a lot of success.”

The River Bandits won the North Division last year and went 26-17 in the regular season. It was the first division title in River Bandits history.

They came up short in the playoffs, but Betterly said it was still a successful season.

“Last year is last year. I mentioned it a little bit in our first meeting, but after that its not really going to get talked about, because it’s a whole new year, a whole new bunch of guys,” Betterly said. “It’s a great thing to build on for our organization, though. It’s a very good thing to build on.”

The only returning player is pitcher Greg Ostner (Binghamton). Betterly said Ostner has had a great season for Binghamton and he expects big things from him when he returns.
Betterly said that he plans to go with a four-man rotation, which at the start of the season will be: Michael O’Reily (Flager College), Christian Herstine (Marietta College), Austin Munn (Ave Maria University) and Brady Badon (Southwest Mississippi Community College).

“The four guys that are going to start, they all throw strikes,” Betterly said. “They don’t walk a lot of guys. They throw their pitches for strikes and that’s why they’re in the rotation. They had a lot of success at their schools and they’re looking to do the same things here.”

Betterly said he’s also very excited about his relief pitchers as well.

After just two days of practice, Betterly said he’s very excited about his offense. Logan Hoggarth (Boston College) and Aaron Pigna (Ave Maria University) should help lead the way.

Betterly said a lot of the players hit in the middle of their lineups at their respective schools.

The River Bandits open the season Friday when they host Covington at 8 p.m. All home games start at 8 p.m. this season. Betterly said O’Reily will get the opening night start.
While making the playoffs is always a goal for every team, Betterly said the most important thing is he wants his players to do their best this season and work on getting better.

“I tell the guys come in and when the scoreboard is on compete — that’s it,” Betterly said. “Hate to lose. Just come in ready to work. Try and get better every day … And that’s all you can ask at the end of the day. They come in, and they give it their all — that’s all you can ask.”

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