Millbrook pitching, power provide difference in win over James Wood

By ROBERT STOCKS | The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter came blaring from the speakers at James Wood’s R. Charles Hott Field following Millbrook’s lopsided 11-0 Conference 21 West victory over the Colonels on Wednesday night.

In reality, it was just a couple of really bad innings by the Colonels that turned a one-run game into a result more fitting of the mercy rule.

Millbrook senior pitcher Ryan Kennedy kept James Wood’s bats quiet for five-plus innings, and the Pioneers’ offense lit up the scoreboard by scoring 10 runs over the final two innings to turn what had been a tight game into a rout.

Kennedy allowed just one hit and struck out seven through 51/3 innings, and Millbrook relievers Austin Murphy and Nate Jaye closed out the final 12/3 innings to complete the shutout.

“[Kennedy] was around the dish all night long,” Millbrook coach Brian Burke said. “He fell behind on some batters, but he still performed well, so we’re very pleased with his outing tonight.”

Millbrook (5-2, 2-0 conference, 1-0 Northwestern District) took a 1-0 lead against James Wood starter Joel Smith in the top of the second.

The Pioneers’ Gavin West and Kyle Keenan started the inning with back-to-back singles, and Ryan Houchens’ sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third with one out.

Zach Rogers followed with an RBI single to right to score West.

Staked to a 1-0 lead, the left-handed Kennedy kept the Colonels (3-4, 0-1 in both conference and district) off balance by mixing his fastball and slider. He retired the first nine Colonels in order, getting a stellar defensive play from first baseman Jalen Tyson, who dived to his right to snare a line drive by Tyler McBride to end the third inning.

Kennedy didn’t allow a runner to reach base until James Wood’s Brett Baker walked to start the fourth inning.

Two outs later, Kennedy walked Trent Campbell to put runners on first and second, but the Pioneers senior got out of the inning by reaching above his head to haul in a line drive by Tyler Matthews to preserve the shutout.

Kennedy kept the Colonels hitless until Hunter O’Gorman reached on an infield single on a slow dribbler down the third-base line in the bottom of the fifth.

After Kennedy struck out McBride for the second out, Baker walked to load the bases and bring Smith to the plate.

With a 2-2 count, Kennedy worked out of the bases-loaded jam by freezing Smith with a sharp slider for a called third strike.

Kennedy struck out the side between a pair of walks and the infield single in the fifth.

“I just thought [to myself] that I’m not going to let this runner score,” said Kennedy, who improved his record to 3-0. “I just had to bear down get right past the hitters in the order.”

Despite just two hits (both infield singles), the Colonels had at least one runner in scoring position in each of the final four innings but stranded eight baserunners.

Smith (2-2) allowed one run on six hits through five innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter.

But once Smith exited, the Pioneers tacked on three runs in the sixth off Wood reliever Mitchell Craig.

With one out, Kennedy and West walked and Keenan drove in both with triple to right to put the Pioneers ahead 3-0. Houchens followed with an RBI groundout to extend the Pioneers’ lead to 4-0.

Kennedy struck out Ben Russo to start the sixth, and then senior Austin Murphy took over in relief. The right-handed Murphy allowed an infield single to Campbell, but struck out Matthews and Brady Renner to end the sixth.

“Millbrook’s a great team with really great pitchers who pump gas, so it was real tough for our hitters to put the ball in play,” James Wood coach Brent Lockhart said. “Kennedy had seven strikeouts and that’s our season-high in strikeouts. When we’re not putting the ball in play we don’t have any chance to get on base with a hit or an error or anything. Hats off to Kennedy — he pitched a great game.”

Millbrook put the game away in the seventh, sending 12 batters to the plate against Colonel relievers Ben Russo and Brady Renner. The Pioneers scored seven runs on five hits.

Conor Hartigan (2 for 5 with a triple) drove in a pair of runs with a double and later scored on an error to make it 7-0. Kennedy scored on a wild pitch by Renner, and a throwing error by the Colonels allowed West and courtesy runner Cody Wolford to score to stretch the Pioneers’ advantage to 10-0.

Nate Jaye’s RBI single capped the Pioneers’ scoring.

Keenan said the Pioneers made the most of their at-bats.

“We were hitting the ball, and we weren’t striking out,” said Keenan, who led the Pioneers going 4 for 4. “We weren’t striking out, and we were making contact. We need a couple rounds through [the batting order] to really get into it and then we really hit our stride and that’s what happens.”

Millbrook totaled 12 hits overall, including five extra-base hits (triples by Hartigan, Keenan and Jaye and doubles by Rogers and Hartigan).

“I thought Kyle did an excellent job at the plate, and he’d been needing that,” Burke said. “The extra-base hits and looking to go for the extra bases — I was really pleased with our approach tonight. We did very well with situational hitting, and in a close ballgame like that, that’s what it takes.”

Jaye went 2 for 4 with an RBI and scored a run, and Rogers finished 2 for 4.

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