Express rolls past River Bandits

STRASBURG – The Strasburg Express offense kept chugging along Wednesday night.

The Express banged out 12 hits, including a trio of home runs, to outpace visiting Woodstock 14-8 for a Valley Baseball League victory at First Bank Park.

Wednesday’s offensive outburst came a day after the Express scored eight runs in a five-inning win over Charles Town. Strasburg has won four of its last five games and improved its North Division leading record to 14-6.

“Guys seem more relaxed, really locked in,” Express second baseman Yan Rivera said. “Good approach at the plate and just keep following the plan.”

The bottom half of Strasburg’s batting order proved a particularly pesky problem for the River Bandits’ pitching staff on Wednesday night, as Jeff Scott (2-for-5, two doubles) Jeremy Musser, Bradley Dixon (2-for-3, two walks), Danny Rafferty and Rivera combined to reach base 13 times in 25 plate appearances and score 10 runs.

Rivera, who hit his first home run of the Valley League season when he belted a two-run shot in the fourth inning, led the Express with four RBIs.

“Just really working hard, just getting on top of the ball really,” said Rivera, a sophomore from La Salle University. “The bottom of the order, we get more fastballs, more stuff and this time we got the job done.”

Strasburg staked itself a 5-2 lead behind third-inning homers by Daniel Midyett (2-for-4, three RBIs) and Josh Cushing and Rivera’s home run in the fourth before Woodstock (8-12) rallied to take the lead briefly in the top of the sixth inning.

The River Bandits opened the frame with six straight hits off Express starting pitcher Colby Nealy, including back-to-back home runs by Andrew Selby – a two-run shot – and Collin Nyenhuis. A balk by reliever Tony Landi later in the frame gave Woodstock its first lead of the game, and Shenandoah University’s John Wilt gave the Bandits a 7-5 lead with an RBI single up the middle.

Woodstock, which had won five of six entering Wednesday, finished 10 hits and three home runs – two by Nyenhuis (four RBIs) – but failed to hold the lead as Strasburg scored nine runs over the final three innings.

“They out-executed us, that’s the bottom line,” River Bandits manager Phil Betterly said. “Proud of the effort we had tonight. We’ve been playing well. They just did a good job of executing when they needed to.”

Strasburg answered Woodstock’s five-run sixth with three runs in the bottom of the frame to regain the lead, as RBIs by Rivera, Midyett and Rafferty’s steal of home on a delayed double steal gave the Express an 8-7 edge.

The River Bandits countered with a run in top of the seventh on Nyenhuis’ sacrifice fly before Strasburg took the lead for good with four more runs in the bottom of the inning.

Woodstock used six different pitchers in Wednesday’s contest and all six surrendered at least one earned run. Axle Metzger took the loss for the River Bandits after allowing three earned runs on three hits in only a third of an inning.

Tony Landi (3-0) got the win for the Express after tossing 1 2/3 innings while allowing an unearned run on two hits, two walks and a strikeout.

Nealy lasted 5 1/3 innings and sat down the first 10 batters he faced before giving up a double to Logan Hoggarth and a homer to Nyenhuis in the fourth inning. Nealy was charged with seven earned runs and eight hits – six of which came in the sixth inning – while striking out six.

“Can’t miss up in the zone here,” Strasburg manager Stephanos Stroop said. “Colby Nealy has pounded the zone for us. He’s given us good starts all summer and really he threw five really good innings, then he gets in the sixth, gets a little bit tired and missed up a little bit. And they hit it out.”

Tyler Bauman shut things down on the mound for the Express over the final two innings, as he allowed just one baserunner via walk while striking out four.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com