By John Leonard
Over 660 days ago, these two teams met in a decisive game three of the 2019 North Division finals. After an epic battle that lasted close to four hours, Strasburg punched its ticket to the finals with an 11-10 victory. Little did we know that Woodstock wouldn’t play again for almost two years, and Strasburg had only two games remaining.
The teams faced off again last night, albeit with the stakes much, much lower, as it was the opening night in Strasburg. The outcome was different this time as well, with Woodstock coming away with a 5-2 win. Oh, and the game finished up before hitting the three hour mark!
The Bandits struck immediately in the first inning against Strasburg starter Donovan Burke (JMU), when Carson Ford (Tennessee Wesleyan) was hit by a pitch, and then came all the way around to score when Charles Loust (Long Beach State) lined a single into center, and the ball hopped over the center fielder’s glove and rolled to the wall. The squad added another run in the third when Ford hit a double to right field with one out, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and came home on a Loust groundout to short.
The Bandits took an easier route to two runs in the fourth, when Marco Martinez (Pasadena CC) led off with a walk, and Jaylon Lee (Eastern Mennonite) hit a bomb over the right field fence, making the score Bandits four, Express zero. After the game, Lee said, “[That was] probably the loudest ball I’ve hit all year, including when I hit with metal.” Indeed, the ball was a no-doubter.
The Express got one back in the bottom of the fourth with a mini-rally with two outs. Tripp McKinley (St. John’s River) doubled, and Cam Irvine (High Point) followed with an RBI flare into right field. Strasburg got within two with another single run when Brayton Brown (Auburn) doubled to center, and Mac McCroskey (Oral Roberts) singled him home to cut the Bandit lead to 4-2.
The Bandits threatened in the top of the seventh against reliever Ryan Ammons (Clemson). Edrick Felix (Central Florida) singled into the Bermuda Triangle just to the right of the pitcher’s mound, and both Willy Escala (Barry) and Ford (in the middle of everything) walked to load the bases with no one out. Ammon recovered, though, by striking out Loust, Kevin Navedo (Bridgewater), and Martinez to end the threat.
The Bandits added an insurance run in the eighth when Jacob Williams ripped a pinch hit home run- a line drive towards the huge dead tree beyond the left field fence, making it 5-2.
After Jake Rons (Cal State Long Beach) set down the Express in two shutout relief innings, striking out six, Conor Miller (York) came on in the ninth, and with a little help on an excellent pick and throw by his shortstop Felix, finished off the game with a save. Brandon Haggerty (York) was the winning pitcher with five solid innings, and Burke was saddled with the loss.
Strasburg travels to Waynesboro for a doubleheader, and Woodstock hosts a doubleheader against Charlottesville tonight.