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WINCHESTER — Millbrook High School sophomore Cole Purdy wasn’t sure he wanted to play more baseball.

Having just completed a JV campaign, he was already concentrating on his offseason regimen for football, his top sport, in the fall.

But the Millbrook baseball coaches were persistent and after taking a weekend to think about it, Purdy decided to join the Pioneers for the postseason.

On Wednesday night, he became a hero.

In his first varsity at-bat, Purdy smacked a pinch-hit, two-run single off of James Wood ace Nick Bell to snap a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning and Millbrook (20-2) held on for a 6-4 triumph in the Class 4 Northwestern District championship game.

Carl Keenan came on in the seventh to quell a Colonels comeback attempt as the Pioneers completed three-game district season sweep of the Colonels (19-5).

The latest drama-filled Millbrook win in the rivalry came thanks to an unlikely, yet memorable debut.

“One hundred percent, it’s going to be one that I remember for the rest of my life,” Purdy said of his evening. “It’s going to be one of those ones where you’re telling stories sitting around a fire in a few years.”

Purdy’s heroics followed a James Wood rally in the top of the sixth against Pioneers’ ace Jerrod Jenkins. With the Colonels trailing 3-2, Jacob Roy led off with a single up the middle and moved to second on Eli Miller’s sacrifice bunt. Bell ripped a single to left to plate Roy to tie the score. Jenkins hit his pitch limit after walking a batter and was relieved by Aiden Henry. Colonels courtesy runner Michael Jackson would score on a passed ball before Henry got out of a bases-loaded jam with a strikeout and a fly out.

Bell, who had not allowed a run in 21.2 career postseason innings before Wednesday, got the first out in the bottom of the sixth, but singles by William Croyle and Brandon Mullins and a walk to Micah George loaded the bases.

With the infield in, Keenan hit a sharp grounder that was thrown away at the plate as one run scored and another baserunner was cut down trying to score on the overthrow.

That left runners at second and third for Purdy, who wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity in any normal circumstances. Purdy pinch-hit for Deaken Neff, who was in the game because normal No. 2 hitter Ethan Burgreen had been ejected in the top of the fourth.

Purdy stepped into the box and lined Bell’s first pitch just past Colonels’ third baseman Colin McGuire to drive in George and Keenan.

“I was thinking it was a big opportunity to be up to the plate,” Purdy said of the at-bat. “I’ve got to give it to the team for telling me where the ball was going to be and to be ready and everything like that. I just want say thank you to the coaches for putting their faith in me to go up to the plate.”

Why choose Purdy in that situation?

“I think it was probably dumb luck,” Millbrook coach Brian Burke said with a chuckle. “At the JV level, he has been a strong offensive player. I rolled the dice. I had him out there swinging prior to [his at-bat] and we waited a little bit, so he didn’t have time to think about it. Just go in and get the job done. That’s a story he will tell the rest of his life.”

Keenan said to get a rally against Bell, who had thrown 8.1 scoreless innings against the Pioneers earlier this season, was huge.

“He’s a great pitcher,” Keenan said. “He’s shoved it to us both games. We did our jobs and had a good approach. We put the ball in play and made them make mistakes and capitalized off of it.”

Keenan, who caught the first six innings, would have to come out from behind the plate in the seventh after the Colonels put their first two batters on base against Henry.

Eli Miller, who was 2-for-2 in the contest, lined an 0-2 pitch towards right field, but also at second baseman Croyle, who speared it and threw to first baseman Mullins to double off Roy.

“That was one of those baseball instinct plays,” Croyle said. “I caught it and I was like, ‘Holy crap, I just caught it. Where do I throw it?'” I looked up and chucked it over to Brandon and he made a great play. I’m glad that we got him out. That kind of sealed the deal.”

Keenan got a fly ball for the final out to clinch the title.

“I like having the ball in my hands because I know I can get the job done,” Keenan said of getting the chance to relieve. “… I knew we had a lead. I wanted to put the ball in play and get a double play. I didn’t think it was going to go like that. I didn’t think it was going to be a line drive and double them up. I thought it was going to be a ground ball. Just put the ball in play with a two-run lead and get outs.”

The drama in the final innings overshadowed a baseball game that neither team said was anywhere near their best effort.

Numerous baserunning blunders happened in the contest that also featured both hitter’s and catcher’s interference. The two teams combined for six errors. The Colonels (four errors) allowed two pop-ups to fall in (one fair and one foul) in the same at-bat and the Pioneers had two runners picked off first by Bell in the same inning.

“That will probably go down in history as being one of the sloppiest district tournament championships that you are ever going to see — by both teams,” James Wood coach Adrian Pullen said. “We didn’t run the bases. We didn’t play defense. We didn’t pitch very well and we didn’t swing it when we needed to. We didn’t execute the little things that need to happen in order to win games.

“We didn’t do that. They did enough to win on a night where both teams were sloppy.”

“It was very uncharacteristic by both teams,” Burke agreed. “It was not taking advantage of situations offensively, poor execution. It was just not what Adrian and I are used to seeing. But you know, it’s late in the year, a big game. A lot of nerves come with that, too.”

Jared Neal singled and scored on an error in the first to give the Colonels a 1-0 lead. Aided by two errors, Millbrook rebounded with three runs against Colonels starter McGuire in the bottom of the inning. Nate Brookshire (single) and Chase Ford (grounder) had RBIs in the frame for the Pioneers.

James Wood made it 3-2 in the fourth when John Copenhaver drew a bases-loaded walk in a nine-pitch at-bat against Jenkins.

Miller and Roy had two hits for the Colonels, who left nine runners on base. Brookshire and Ford had two hits apiece for the Pioneers.

Millbrook will host the No. 2 seed from the Dulles District on Tuesday, while James Wood will travel to the No. 1 seed from the Dulles.

Pullen, who took the blame for his team’s play Wednesday, said the Colonels will adjust. “We will go to work on that tomorrow,” he said. “You better believe that. We are going to go hard because we are not done.”

Croyle said Wednesday’s clash could be indicative of the playoffs. “It wasn’t pretty, but in the postseason it doesn’t have to be pretty as long as you get the ‘W.’ I think we’re hot right now. The bats are rolling and our defense is lights out.”

The Pioneers will have to play the regional semifinal without shortstop and pitcher Burgreen, who must sit out one game for his ejection.

— Contact Walt Moody at

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