previous arrow
next arrow

STEPHENS CITY — Scoring one run is the general expectation for a team when its deep fly ball is caught with one out and the bases loaded, but the James Wood baseball team had other ideas on Thursday in the top of the fifth inning at Sherando.

Sherando initially thought it had caught the third out of the inning in left field, so the Warriors were slow to get the ball toward the infield as Colonels first baseman Nick Bell, who was on third, scored easily. But there was nothing slow about the movement of Colonels right fielder Brody Bower, who began Kaden Spaid’s at-bat on second base.

Bower was flying as he first made his way toward third base, then home. Sherando responded quickly enough that the relay throw toward home plate arrived before Bower did, but his movements clearly rushed Sherando’s attempt to get him out. The throw was high and off-line toward the third-base side. It was a catchable ball, but the catcher was going to have to move quickly to apply the tag if he did catch it, and he didn’t. It went off his glove, and Bower scored easily.

James Wood first-year head coach Adrian Pullen didn’t have to send Bower home — the Colonels were up eight runs when Bell crossed the plate. But an aggressive mentality is fueling James Wood this year, and it’s a big reason why the Colonels emerged with a 17-4 win that took six innings to complete on Thursday.

“We like to be aggressive on the basepaths,” said Bower (1 for 3, RBI single), whose run made it 12-3. “It puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”

The Colonels — who scored five runs in the first inning and led 9-0 heading halfway through the third — had four stolen bases, took extra bases when they could, and applied pressure that helped produce runs for them and some of Sherando’s five errors.

“We want to play aggressive, we want to play hard and fast, and we want to play as a team, and tonight we did it,” said Pullen, whose team did not commit an error. “We executed almost flawlessly.”

James Wood (2-1) was up 14-3 in the sixth inning before it had its first extra-base hit against Sherando (2-2) and finished the game with 13 hits and seven walks. Two of their batters were hit by pitches.

That was more than enough for Luke Gross (1-0). The senior had a rough third inning where he gave up three runs, two walks and hit two batters to make the score 9-3. But he shut out Sherando in the first, second, fourth and fifth innings. Gross left after giving up two singles in the sixth (leadoff batter Zach Symons came around to score after Spaid came in to pitch) and finished with four earned runs, eight hits and three walks while striking out five batters in his five-plus innings of work.

Unlike in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Millbrook, James Wood was not lamenting missed opportunities Thursday. James Wood left only five people on base.

“Quality at-bats tonight were probably 80 percent, and that’s what we stress,” Pullen said. “We talked about it [Wednesday] night, a little team meeting of where we went wrong against Millbrook. We had five at-bats — crucial, game-changing — that we didn’t get it done against Millbrook. The kids listened. They came tonight, and they executed. It was a great team win for us.”

Pullen’s son Bodie (two runs, RBI) set the tone for James Wood’s aggressiveness right away in the first inning.

He led off with a single, stole second base, then stole third. With Spaid (two runs, double, three RBIs) at the plate, Pullen then stole third. The attempt to throw Pullen out at third hit Spaid’s bat though and bounded into foul territory. After popping up from his slide, Pullen scampered home. He screamed after he jumped up following his slide into home plate.


“He can be a real catalyst at the top of the lineup,” Adrian Pullen said. “When he gets on, that really fuels the fire for everybody.”

Sherando coach Pepper Martin thought the Warriors would have thrown out Bodie Pullen if the ball traveled on its normal path. But the run scored, and the Colonels kept coming.

Colin McGuire (4 for 4 with four RBIs and three runs) drove in two runs with the first of his four singles to make it 3-0.

With one out and runners on first and third, Aden Payne (2 for 4, two runs, RBI) grounded to third. The throw went to first for the second out as Jaden Ashby (three runs, two walks, two stolen bases), who had reached on a single, scored and McGuire went to second. The Warriors tried to get the third out by throwing to second behind McGuire, who had strayed far away from the bag, but the ball went into the outfield and McGuire was able to score to make it 5-0.

Gross took the mound with plenty of confidence after that.

“It’s pretty easy to throw with a five-run lead,” Gross said. “The guys behind me, they did great. That third inning got away from me a little bit, but I just went out there and I tried to pound the zone.”

While Gross had plenty of confidence in his defense, Martin — who has coached Sherando for 27 years and James Wood for one year prior to that — said the Warriors’ poor defense was one of many factors that left him about as dismayed as he’s ever been after a defeat.

“I’ve coached a long time,” Martin said. “This ranks right up there among the most embarrassing losses that we’ve ever had here. It’s hard to put the finger on what exactly the problem is. We’re just not plugged in offensively, defensively, pitching-wise. We gave them extra outs almost every inning. Our pitchers are throwing behind in the count. Instead of giving up walks, you’ve got to serve it in there. And when they’re hitting the ball, we’re not making the plays. Just all the way around.

“I tip my cap to James Wood. They played a nice game. But our mental approach or something needs to change, because — I hate to be so negative — that was a travesty of a performance out there tonight. We’re going to have to figure this thing out in a hurry, or it can get ugly. Right now, when we start to play, the focus isn’t there.”

Mason See (0-2) started for Sherando. Though he could have used more defensive help, he gave up nine runs (seven earned), seven hits, four walks and hit a batter in three innings before he was replaced by Drew Franchok to start the fourth inning.

Martin said he waited until the fourth to remove See because he wanted to see him battle through the adversity. Martin noted that See didn’t have a smooth start in the season opener against Millbrook either, with See giving up seven runs (four earned), five hits and five walks while striking out four batters.

James Wood also was led by Jayden Nixon (two runs, double, three RBIs) and Andrew Waters (2 for 4, RBI).

Andrew Plunkett (3 for 3, RBI), Symons (1-2, RBI) and Cole Armel (1-3, RBI) led Sherando.

— Contact Robert Niedzwiecki at
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Follow on Twitter @WinStarSports1