WOODSTOCK — Offense has not been a problem for the Woodstock River Bandits all season.
The River Bandits have had a solid lineup led by two of the top hitters in the Valley Baseball League. Aidan Nagle is second in batting average at .429 (48-for-112) with teammate Caleb Ward in third at .413 (33-for-80).
Woodstock head coach Mike Bocock said he’s seen the bottom part of the lineup start to hit better as well.
“I think our hitting is contagious,” Bocock said Wednesday afternoon. “As (Woodstock assistant) coach (Paul) Ackerman says, we’re starting to get hitting on down the line. Our seven, eight, nine-hole guys are starting to hit. They’re all just jumping on board, joining the hit train.”
The River Bandits are second in the VBL, batting .289 as a team.
One advantage that Bocock’s River Bandits have is versatility. He said they have plenty of left-handed and right-handed hitters in the lineup and he can mix them up throughout his lineup.
Bocock said that his hitters also can do a little bit of everything from hit homers, bunt, steal and hit singles.
“We have a diverse group of hitters,” Bocock said. “Each guy has a different aspect. Look at how many guys have multiple home runs (five) guys in the lineup. If you can hit that many home runs in this ballpark when we go to places like Staunton (on Tuesday night) — we had three home runs (Tuesday) night.”
SOLID ADDITIONS: Two players who have added a lot to Woodstock’s lineup have been Josh Jones (James Madison University) and Lael Lockhart (University of Houston). Both were added to the team in the last few weeks and have made a big impact.
Lockhart is hitting .383 (23-for-60) with two homers, 19 runs scored and 14 RBIs in 17 games.
“A lot of people don’t realize Lockhart is probably the best pitcher in this league but he’s not pitching (for Woodstock),” Bocock said. “So what has happened is he’s come here with a role that he wants to work on — to be a better hitter. He is a switch hitter and he’s equally good from one side to the other. So he’s a guy that has now fallen into our three-hole, which is good because he can do so much.”
Jones is batting .368 (7-for-19) with three runs scored and two RBIs in seven games.
“Jones’ defense is very good,” Bocock said. “He was a kid that played at JMU. He was an all-conference guy. He had to sit out academically for one year and now he is back. He’s excited about it. And I tell you what — he’s a good hitter.”
KEY TO SUCCESS: Woodstock has won six of its last seven games and is 16-12 on the season. The River Bandits are in second place in the North Division, just 3.5 games behind first-place Strasburg.
Bocock said one of the keys to the River Bandits’ success has been their laid-back approach. He said it’s important for the team to play loose and hard.
“I think we know each other,” Bocock said. “We’re laid back, were having a good time. We like to be with each other. It’s just a good team atmosphere. I credit it to the organization from (Woodstock General Manager) Porky Bowman to the host families. And I think they want a winner. And I think they have waited for a winner here and we’re giving them a pretty good show. The players enjoy the host families. The host families enjoy the players. Everybody’s come together for something special.”
The River Bandits have struggled over the last few years to win games. Last year. the River Bandits had a franchise-worst season with a 5-37 record. But Bocock has helped the franchise turn things around. Bocock is in his 24th season as head coach. He has won a VBL-record seven championships with numerous teams.
Bocock said that his coaching staff of Ackerman, Charlie Shepard and Tyler Bocock, Mike’s son, have been a big help to him and the team.
“The coaching staff is older,” Mike Bocock said. “We’ve been around the game. I’ve got enough older coaches that make a difference. Shepard — he’s a 20-year guy, long-time coach. Then you got Ackerman (with a lot of experience) and myself. In comparison, you watch these other teams Strasburg, New Market they’ve got these three, four young coaches and these players are almost as old as them. I’ve got one guy Tyler (Bocock) that’s just the right age to deal with them. And they learn a lot. These kids are soaking it up.”