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WINCHESTER — Jerrod Jenkins’ final swing in Friday night’s Class 4 Northwestern District baseball clash against James Wood wasn’t exactly the most well-struck ball he’s had for Millbrook High School.

But, he couldn’t have hit the ball in a more perfect place.

Jenkins looped a double down the left field line against the Colonels’ shift to plate two runs in the top of the seventh and Carl Keenan closed out the Pioneers’ 4-3 victory at R. Charles Hott Field.

Millbrook (6-1, 3-0 district) trailed 3-2 entering the seventh after James Wood took the lead in the sixth. With two outs, Jared Neal singled, swiped second base and scored as John Copenhaver’s single to right-center just ticked off the glove of Pioneers center fielder Micah George.

With one out in the top of the seventh, Keenan drew a walk against Colonels’ reliever Daniel Franceschi, who then hit Ethan Burgreen with a pitch. Franceschi got the dangerous Nate Brookshire on a pop-up to first to bring up the switch-hitting Jenkins, a dead pull hitter when he bats left-handed.

Franceschi got ahead 1-2 and Jenkins’ fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before his finals swing. With the Colonels’ outfield swung way toward right field, Jenkins fought off a pitch that dropped down the left field line just out of reach of Colonels left-fielder Kemper Omps and shortstop Bodie Pullen. Keenan and Burgreen, both running with the crack of the bat, easily scored to give the Pioneers the lead.

“I was just trying to get the ball in play and give the guys on base the opportunity to score,” said Jenkins of his game-winning at-bat. “I was trying to hit the ball hard. I just wanted to put the barrel on it honestly.”

“They were playing him to pull and rightfully so,” Millbrook coach Brian Burke said. “He doesn’t always go opposite field very easily. He insided-it-out and found a way. That’s baseball — it’s a game of inches and feet. It went our way.”

James Wood coach Adrian Pullen had no qualms about his team’s defensive alignment for Jenkins, a player that the Colonels are familiar with both through high school and summer ball.

“Hey, we left one hole and he hit it there,” Pullen said. “Hats off to him, great job. Our pitcher battled and he had a great at-bat and put the ball where he wanted it. You can’t cover the whole outfield. That’s the way it is and that’s the way it happens. He rose to the occasion and got the job done.”

Neither team led by more than a run in the contest, played in brisk windy conditions.

James Wood (3-2, 1-2) struck first in the first inning without the benefit of a hit against Millbrook starter Aiden Henry. Pullen walked and Brody Bower was hit by a pitch. After a double-steal, Colin McGuire’s groundout scored Pullen to make it 1-0.

Millbrook tied it against McGuire in the third. Two singles and an error loaded the bases with one out and another error on Brookshire’s hard-hit grounder plated Brandon Mullins.

The Colonels bounced back in the bottom of the frame. Bower singled to right for James Wood’s first hit and stole second. He’d eventually score from third on Nick Bell’s two-out single up the middle.

The Pioneers would square it again in the fifth as Keenan walked, swiped second and scored on Brookshire’s single to left.

Keenan, who entered the game in the fourth, retired the side in order in the seventh to notch the victory. He allowed just two hits, while walking one and striking out five.

“I thought I had a good outing,” Keenan said. “I pitched to contact and let my defense make plays. My curveball was pretty effective. Throwing it against the wind, it was breaking pretty hard.”

“He’s a great pitcher,” said Jenkins, who caught Keenan on Friday. “He great in the zone. He controls his curveball and his fastball very well. He’s ahead very often.”

Keenan also had a big day at the plate. The Pioneers’ leadoff hitter reached base in all four plate appearances, recording two singles and two walks and scoring twice.

“I thought I did my job,” Keenan said. “They weren’t necessarily great hits. I got them off the end of the bat, but I did my job, got on base and scored.”

Both teams combined for a total of nine hits and both coaches lamented their offensive production.

“We played OK,” Pullen said. “We’ve got to do better offensively. You can’t strike out nine times and only have four hits and expect to beat too many people. We’ve got to put the ball in play more and make the other team work.”

“We’re still trying to find it offensively,” said Burke, who team is averaging 5.7 runs per game, while giving up 2.6. “Our pitching has been solid, but our offense has not caught up to where we are pitching-wise and defensively right yet.”

McGuire pitched well for the Colonels, allowing four hits, while striking out six and walking one in five innings.

The Pioneers completed a big week by knocking off Fauquier, which had not previously lost a district game, and the Colonels, the defending district tournament champs.

“Anything you can get early is always a bonus,” Burke said. “You try to put some separation between yourself and the district early and see how things shake out as the season goes along. … When you are able to win 2-0 and 4-3 ballgames against big-time district rivals, it says a lot about the club that we’re doing enough to get by.”

Pullen believes his squad will bounce back.

“We’ll be fine,” he said. “We lost to [Millbrook] at home last year. It’s how we play in May and not how we play in March.”

— Contact Walt Moody at
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