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River Bandits off to slow start in Valley Baseball League

WOODSTOCK – The Woodstock River Bandits are off to a rocky start in the Valley Baseball League this season.

The River Bandits have lost seven straight games, and head coach Greg Keaton said there is still time to turn things around, but they need to do it soon.

“There’s not much to be positive about,” Keaton said Wednesday after an 8-0 loss to Covington. “We can turn it around; we can change it hopefully. Hopefully, we can get some more pitching in. Hopefully, we get some situational hitting going – two-out hits. Until that time, it will be the same thing every night.”

The River Bandits won the first game of the season, but haven’t won since. Keaton said one of the biggest problems has been the pitching staff.

The River Bandits have a team ERA of 8.33 and are allowing an average of nine runs a game. Brett Linton leads the team with 12 innings pitched in two starts with 10 strikeouts and has the team’s only victory. Jacob Bradley (ASA College) leads the team with 14 strikeouts in 10 innings and two starts.

As a team, the River Bandits have walked an average of eight batters per game. The bullpen has struggled throughout the young season, and that continued Wednesday. Linton pitched six strong innings, Christian Hague (University of Mary Washington) and Austin Bissell (Ohio Valley University) worked scoreless seventh and eighth innings respectively. Things fell apart in the ninth.

The River Bandits had three relievers combine to give up six runs on two hits, a wild pitch, a hit batsman and four walks. The River Bandits also committed two errors in the inning.

“We need pitching,” Keaton said. “We need guys that show up every night. We got guys that show up part of the time. That’s the truth. That’s a true statement. That’s not some coach speak. That’s the truth.”

The offense has been just as dismal for the River Bandits. They are hitting .221 as a team and scattered five hits throughout the game against the Lumberjacks.

One of the bright spots offensively has been the play of Ramon Garza (Cornell University), who is hitting .333 for the year with a team-best five RBIs.

“Garza’s been a doing a great job,” Keaton said. “I think he’s got a hit in every game he’s played in. I think he’s got what’s known as a hitting streak. So I’m happy about that. I’m proud of him. He’s done a good job.”

Keaton said he’s also proud of catcher Alex Goebel (Florida Southern College), who has only played in three games. Goebel just recently arrived in Woodstock after playing in the Division II College World Series for Florida Southern College.

William Jones (Lenoir-Rhyne University) leads the team with a .400 batting average (6-for-15).

Keaton arrived in Woodstock late last summer and served as an assistant coach. He was supposed to be the head coach but had to have surgery, so Will Thompson took over the head coach position.

Keaton, who was a head coach in the Valley League for Rockbridge, said he was happy to return to Woodstock this season. He said his assistant coaches, Cliff Jackson and Tucker Abruzzino, have been a big help to him.

“I commend them greatly because they come out here every day and try to make these guys better, and it is not translating to on the field success,” Keaton said. “They’ve done a great job and will continue to do a great job because they’ll grind it out. We thought we could help and teach them some baseball and hopefully at some point that happens.”

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