Thompson excited to be back with River Bandits

Will Thompson

WOODSTOCK — Will Thompson had plenty of success as a player for the Woodstock River Bandits. This year he hopes to have success as the head coach of the Valley Baseball League team.

Thompson, who played for the River Bandits in 2014, is in his first year coaching the team. Greg Keaton was supposed to be the head coach but had to have surgery and could not make it to Woodstock. So Thompson, who was supposed to be an assistant coach this season, took over the head coach role.

“It helps that I played here in 2014,” Thompson said on Monday afternoon. “I kind of knew how (River Bandits General Manager) Mr. (R.W. ‘Porky’) Bowman likes to run things. How his organization goes. That definitely helped. I love the town of Woodstock. The fans support us if we win. It’s a great place to play summer ball definitely.”

Thompson graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina, where Keaton is an assistant coach. Thompson also was an assistant coach at Lenior-Rhyne for a season, before becoming assistant coach this past season at the University of South Carolina Sumter in Sumter, South Carolina.

Thompson, who said he is getting help from assistant coaches Cliff Jackson and Reed Brown, has plenty of talent on his squad.

Woodstock's Drew Mancuso fires a pitch against Front Royal in a game last season at Bing Crosby Stadium. Mancuso and the River Bandits are off to a 5-4 start this season. Rich Cooley/Daily file

The River Bandits have some key players returning who will look to make an impact.

Danton Hyman (Newberry College) was one of the top hitters on the team last year, and is once again having a solid season. He has a .353 batting average (12-for-34) with 10 runs scored and five RBIs.

Cash Gladfelter (Shippensburg University) is also helping the River Bandits’ offense this season. He is hitting .478 (11-for-23) with one homer and a team-best seven RBIs.

“It’s great having them at the top of the lineup, because you know every time they’re up there they’re either going to get on base for us or they’re going to knock some runs in,” Thompson said of Hyman and Gladfelter. “That kind of carries over. Once somebody hits everybody starts hitting.”

Thompson said that the team got off to a slow start offensively, but has started swinging the bats much better lately. The River Bandits have scored 37 runs in their last five contests. Overall, they are hitting .268 as a team.

Woodstock’s pitching has been solid all season. The River Bandits are second in the league with a team ERA of 3.46.

Thompson said right now Colin Brown, Trent Spikes, Jared Lembcke and Brady Wilkinson are his top starters, but he’s still looking for a couple guys to help out in the starting rotation.

Spikes (North Greenville University) has a 1.63 ERA with a team-best 15 strikeouts.

“He’s been lights out all summer for us,” Thompson said of Spikes. “Every time he goes out there you know he’s going to throw a lot of strikes and get guys out and dominate. And that’s what he’s done so far for us.”

In addition to Hyman, the River Bandits also have Brady Jones (Bethel University, Tennessee) and Drew Mancuso (Sewanee-University of the South). Thompson said the trio has been great in showing the other players around and helping them adjust to the VBL.

Last year the River Bandits finished a dismal 11-31, but they are already well on their way to topping that mark this season. Woodstock is 5-4, and just 1.5 games behind Purcellville in the North Division.

Thompson said as always the goal is to make the postseason.

“We definitely expect them to get in the playoffs and make a run,” Thompson said. “I know the expectation here in Woodstock every year is playoffs or bust. We obviously want our guys to have a great summer, have fun, enjoy their time with each other. Because they’re going to make friends that they never would have made if they didn’t play summer ball.”