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Posted July 29, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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River Bandits start fast, beat Turks

By Robert Edmonds -- sports@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- The River Bandits wasted little time coming out of the gates Tuesday night when they hosted Harrisonburg.

Woodstock struck early and often, scoring in five of the first seven innings to build a lead that proved to be too much in a 10-3 victory over the Turks.

"Our pitcher did a great job for us," River Bandits manager Donn Foltz said. "He gave us six great innings and it definitely helps when we put runs on the board like we did tonight."

With the Valley League regular season winding down and each win having an added importance in the battle for playoff position, the River Bandits showed why they have become a team to be feared by other league opponents.

Woodstock led 1-0 entering the bottom half of the second, but quickly extended its lead. With one out and facing Turks starter, Drew Grainer, River Bandits designated hitter, Michael Garza, ripped a double to left-centerfield. Garza stole third base and then scored when teammate Shawn Ablett hit a Grainer pitch into the rightfield corner for a triple.

A relay throw to third from Turks rightfielder Thomas Nichols went off course and into the fence along the leftfield line, allowing Ablett to reach home on the play and extent his team's lead to 3-0.

"It was nice to get the first runs early and get going hitting," Ablett said. "It took us a little longer this season to make the adjustment to the wood than we would have liked but the guys have come around and games like this are really fun. We like to compete."

While the River Bandits' offense surged ahead, freshman Will Hudgins took the mound for the first time since leaving high school. Hudgins appeared as if he had been pitching all along as he picked apart the Turks' lineup.

Before the game, Hudgins was told he would see three-to-four innings work following a doubleheader played by the River Bandits earlier in the week. Hudgins, however, had the Turks' number as he picked up five strikeouts in six innings of work, only allowing one run en route to his first win of the season.

"This was my first time starting since high school," Hudgins said. "I just came out and tried to throw strikes and give our team a chance. Our offense gave me some support and I'm happy I was able to come through."

"We have a pitching staff that we feel like can compete with anybody in this league," Ablett said. "If we can keep hitting like we have, there are no limits on what we can do. We expect a lot from ourselves."

Leading 8-3 in the bottom of the seventh, Ablett struck again, removing any doubt that the River Bandits would fall into cruise control. With Garza again on base, Ablett hit a towering shot into the left-centerfield gap well over the outfield fence for a two-run home run to set the final margin.

"We just didn't come to play tonight," Turks manager Bob Wease said. "We didn't play with any intensity. It was like we were just going through the motions. This has been a frustrating year. If someone would have told me before the season that we would have such a tough year with all the ups and downs, I'd of lost my house."

With two games remaining in the regular season, Foltz wants his team to continue to play with the intensity they have showed all season long to ensure they have the opportunity to make a run into the postseason.

"We are playing to go get them all," Foltz said. "There are no guarantees and we don't want to rely on any other teams. We want to go out and play hard and get the job done ourselves."

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