Top of the order fuels Sherando's baseball win over James Wood

By ROBERT STOCKS | The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Sherando’s Frank Ritter III and Pearce Bucher bat first and third, respectively, in the batting order, and both players made their swings count in Wednesday night’s Northwestern District and Conference 21 West baseball game against James Wood.

Ritter finished 3 for 4 with a triple, three RBIs and two runs scored, and Bucher went 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles and drove in two runs, helping the Warriors hold on for a 7-5 victory over the Colonels at R. Charles Hott Field.

Ritter and Bucher did most of their damage in a six-run fourth inning by the Warriors, giving starting pitcher Adam Miller all the support he would need.

Miller (3-1) scattered eight hits through 62/3 innings to help the Warriors before Hunter Entsminger came on in relief and retired Ben Russo — who represented the tying run at the plate — with groundout to second.

Ritter, Bucher and Miller, who batted in the No. 2 slot in the order, combined for seven of the Warriors’ nine hits.

Sherando coach Pepper Martin said Ritter and Bucher have been catalysts in the top part of the batting order.

“We’ve had different players step up at different times to help us offensively, but those two in particular have been the most consistent,” Martin said. “It seems like as they go, our offense goes.”

It sure seemed that way Wednesday night.

Ritter singled off Wood starter Joel Smith to lead off the third inning and then stole second.

One out later, Bucher followed with an RBI double to give Sherando (10-3, 2-0 district, 1-1 conference) a 1-0 lead.

Smith (2-3) ran into trouble in the fourth inning, walking Myles McPartland to lead off the inning, and Entsminger followed with a fly ball to center, but Russo lost it in the lights and it dropped for a single.

Sherando’s Brett Bodenschatz bunted, but reached safely after an errant throw to first by Smith to load the bases.

Smith walked Michael Usa to plate McPartland to put Sherando ahead 2-0.

After Smith struck out Jack Duvall for the first out, Ritter cleared the bases with a triple to center to extend the Warriors’ lead to 5-0. Ritter’s triple chased Smith and Mitch Craig came on in relief.

Miller followed with a sinking liner that got by Russo in center, allowing Ritter to score.

Bucher capped the six-run inning with an RBI double to give Sherando a 7-0 lead.

“We were just hunting fastballs early in the count,” said Bucher of the top of the fourth that saw the Warriors send 10 batters to the plate. “We were stringing together a lot of quality at-bats which led to hits and moving runners over and creating RBI opportunities.

“We’re always trying to make something happen.”

Miller cruised through the first four innings, giving up just two hits (one an infield single) and not allowing a James Wood runner reach second base.

He recorded five of his seven strikeouts in the first four innings, keeping the Colonels (4-6, 0-2 in both district and conference) off balance by mixing his fastball, curveball and changeup.

But in the final three innings, the Colonels put their leadoff runner on base to start both the fifth and sixth innings to score four runs.

James Wood’s Colby Monroe (2 for 3 with a run) and Tanner George opened the fifth with back-to-back singles. Monroe later scored on a passed ball, and George scored on an errant throw to first by Ritter to trim Sherando’s lead to 7-2.

An inning later, Smith reached on an error and Russo followed with a single. Trenton Campbell followed with an RBI single, and George (2 for 3 with a run) drove in another run with a single between third and short to cut the Warriors’ advantage to 7-4.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Miller hit Tylor McBride with a pitch. McBride advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then Brett Baker followed with an RBI single to cut Sherando’s lead to 7-5.

Smith reached on a fielder’s choice after his grounder to short resulted in a force out at second for the second out. Miller exited at that point, reaching the pitch limit (unofficially at 111), and Entsminger took over in relief.

Entsminger got ahead with an 0-2 count before retiring Russo on a groundout to second for his first save.

Even though he got the victory, Miller said he was a little disappointed with his final three innings on the mound.

“I started out well locating and then in the later [innings] I wasn’t locating and gave up too many hard-hit balls,” said Miller, a transfer from Strasburg High School. “I kind of let my emotions get to me, and I kind of need to work on that.

“My arm probably got better as the game went on, but I just kind of lost control. I’ve got to finish off teams.”

One night after knocking off Frederick County-rival Millbrook in a non-conference game, the Warriors evened their conference record, and Martin hopes his team learned a lesson as well.

“We got a 7-0 lead and the guys kind of relaxed a little bit and didn’t maintain their focus,” Martin said. “Unless there’s a run-rule there’s seven innings and 21 outs and until those 21 outs are over — the game’s not over. We’ve got to learn that. There’s not 15 outs.”

James Wood coach Brent Lockhart liked how his team battled throughout, but the Colonels couldn’t overcome Sherando’s six-run inning.

“They had a 7-0 score on us and our players competed until the end and we did get the tying run to the plate,” Lockhart said. “But the biggest issue was that big inning where they scored six runs on three hits.

“We really shot ourselves in the foot. We lost the ball in center field in the lights and that should’ve been an out, and I think we had [two] walks in that inning. If you eliminate a couple of those, [the Warriors] only score two or three and we’re right there in the ballgame in the seventh.”

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