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STEPHENS CITY — After getting one-hit in their first loss of the season on Monday, the Sherando High School hitters had a pretty good idea Tuesday’s game against James Wood wasn’t going to get any easier.

Especially, if Colonels ace Nick Bell was on the hill.

Bell delivered a gem, tossing a five-hitter and striking out 14 Warriors without a walk, to lead James Wood to a 6-1 triumph.

Bodie Pullen had two hits and drove in two runs to lead the Colonels’ offense against a solid pitching effort from Sherando’s Gary Keats.

Bell, who entered the game with a 0.67 ERA, had the Warriors hitters on their heels the entire contest. He struck out five of the first six batters and fanned at least one batter in every inning as he recorded his career-high for strikeouts at any level. His hard slider off the outside corner did most of the damage, but he also got the Sherando hitters on fastballs, curves and change-ups.

“I had command of about everything tonight,” said Bell, who improved to 4-1 on the season. “Everything was moving like crazy and I felt like I was hitting my spots pretty well, too.”

“Nick was wonderful,” said James Wood coach Adrian Pullen, whose team (7-3, 3-2) moved into a three-way tie for second place in the district with the Warriors (8-2, 3-2) and Fauquier (5-5, 3-2). “He did a great job. He spotted up in-and-out with all pitches. He was on tonight. He liked the warm weather.”

While the weather was balmy, Bell said that it was practice during the cold months that has led to his slider developing into a big strikeout pitch. He now has 50 strikeouts in 28 innings this season.

“We worked on that throughout the winter and developed it even more than last year,” the junior right-hander said.

Sherando coach Pepper Martin was impressed.

“The Bell kid was on,” Martin said. “He was throwing all of his pitches for strikes or tantalizing our hitters to think they were strikes. He had it working tonight. It took us awhile to make a few adjustments with minimal success.”

Bell was able to pitch with a lead throughout the contest as the Colonels took a 1-0 lead in the first. Bodie Pullen led off with a single, swiped second and moved to third on Brody Bower’s bunt single. Colin McGuire’s sacrifice fly to center brought Pullen home.

“It really feels good to get the team going with a hit,” said Pullen, who lined Keats’ first pitch to left. “I really feel like our energy feeds off what the top-of-the-lineup guys do.”

“You always want to get the lead early,” Adrian Pullen said. “The way we play, we want to get on and score early and put the pressure on. We were able to do that tonight. We probably left some runs on the field that we would like to have, so will continue to work, but we are playing better.”

Bell liked having a lead before he threw his first pitch.

“When we get a run in the first inning, you have all of the confidence and you feel more comfortable on the mound,” he said. “With my defense back behind me making plays, it’s hard to beat.”

He’d have even more of a cushion after the Colonels took advantage of two errors to tack on two more runs in the second. John Copenhaver’s RBI grounder, which was booted, and Kemper Omps’ RBI single made it 3-0.

In the fourth. Jacob Roy reached on an error and later raced home after Keats threw to first on a grounder to make it 4-0.

The Warriors finally got on the board in the fifth. David English reached on an infield hit and took second on an error on the play. Neil Holborn followed with a drive to the right-center field gap to bring in English.

“He’s doing things that are getting the notice of the coaching staff,” Martin said of Holborn, who also made a nice catch in the lone inning he played at shortstop. “I think he’s lobbying for a little bit more playing time.”

The Colonels rebounded with two runs in the sixth. With two on and two out, Bodie Pullen spanked a two-run double to right-center.

“Gary threw a great game and he was working everyone away, away, away,” the senior shortstop said. “So, we had to change our approach and go to right-center. Thankfully, I got a pitch to take to that right-center gap.”

Bell came out for the seventh and though he fell behind a couple of hitters he finished like he started the game by striking out the side.

“I wanted to finish it real bad,” said Bell, who threw 97 pitches. “I just dug deep and got through it.”

Keats allowed seven hits through six innings, while striking out six and walking one.

“We felt our freshman did an admirable job on the mound for us tonight,” Martin said. “We didn’t really help him defensively in a couple of innings that led to some unearned runs. … I think he pitched a pretty solid game for us and that’s something he can build on, no doubt.”

Omps also had two hits for the Colonels, who have tinkered a little with their batting order recently.

“We’re just trying to find that right mix to where we click on all cylinders that we know we are capable of doing,” Adrian Pullen said. “Everybody right now, as it warms up the offense will pick up. I don’t think any of us are satisfied where we are offensively.”

Martin is hoping his team can rebound from the losses to Millbrook (2-1) and James Wood. His squad still has games with Warren County and Skyline this week.

“We have to get right back on the horse and we have to get back to doing things that have made us successful and helped us win ballgames,” said Martin, whose squad also played Saturday. “What better way than having a short memory and having to turn around the next day and play again. We’ll see how we respond.”

— Contact Walt Moody at
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