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WINCHESTER — Eight innings of one-run ball was barely able to get the James Wood baseball team a victory in the Region 4C semifinals on Tuesday.

Eight innings of shutout baseball wasn’t enough to get the Colonels a win in Friday’s championship game.

Tuscarora snapped a scoreless tie with six runs in the top of the ninth inning and knocked off defending regional champion James Wood 6-0 at R. Charles Hott Field.

The loss forced the Colonels (18-4), last year’s Class 4 runner-up, to open the state quarterfinals on the road at 6 p.m. on Tuesday as they travel to Amherst County (20-3), which defeated Louisa County 6-0 Thursday in the Region 4D final. Tuscarora (22-3) will host Louisa County (16-5) on Tuesday.

James Wood mustered just five hits against the Huskies’ duo of Cole Keen and Bauer Burkhart. The lack of an offensive attack ruined a stellar effort by the Colonels’ Colin McGuire, who allowed just four hits and struck out nine over 7.2 innings.

The Colonels have been sputtering to put runs on the board down the stretch. They’ve been held to three or less in their last five games.

“That’s been the story lately,” James Wood coach Adrian Pullen said of the lack of production. “We keep giving ourselves opportunities. We’ve just got to keep working. We’ll get back to work [Saturday] morning.”

The Colonels left 11 on base in their 2-1 win against Heritage in the regional semifinals and also have been hurting themselves on the bases. On Friday, they had two baserunners caught stealing and another picked off at second.

“The baseball gods aren’t shining on us right now,” Pullen said when asked about why his team is struggling. “We’ll just keep working. We’ve got to have good at-bats, you’ve got to be patient and you’ve got to keep the ball out of the air. … You can’t give away outs and then give away outs on the bases.”

From the start of Friday’s clash that was played in blazing heat, it was a pitcher’s duel as McGuire and Keel kept putting zeroes on the board.

McGuire, who had given up three runs in the top of the first inning in his last start against Sherando in the Class 4 Northwestern District semifinals, got three quick outs in the first this time.

“It was key to get off to a good start,” McGuire said. “The 1-2-3 inning in the first was key and got me rolling toward the rest of the game. I kind of took the Sherando game and learned from it. I was able to execute my pitches better today.”

McGuire didn’t allow a hit until Michael Janicki’s opposite field single with two outs in the fifth.

“I definitely had to have my ‘A game’ for this game,” McGuire said. “This is a really great baseball team. I was able to keep them off guard with my offspeed. As you can see they scored six in the last inning.”

Keel nearly matched him pitch-for-pitch. The Colonels had just two hits in the first five innings and both of those baserunners were eventually cut down on the bases.

McGuire got some defensive help in the seventh as center fielder Kemper Omps threw out a Huskies baserunner trying to go from first to third on a single.

Burkhart replaced Keel, who had allowed two hits with no walks and four strikeouts, in the bottom of the seventh.

McGuire ran out of pitches in the eighth and needed some relief help in that inning, too. With two outs, Burkhart hit a fly ball that was misjudged and went for a triple. Garett McAlexander entered in relief.

Pullen elected to intentionally walk the next two batters to load the bases and McAlexander got Tuscarora cleanup hitter Isaac McIntosh on a grounder to McGuire at third to end the threat.

McGuire threw 109 pitches and walked two in his stint.

“It was awesome,” Pullen said of McGuire’s effort. “He wasn’t the district Player of the Year for nothing. He threw the ball well all night. He’d lose command of the fastball and get it back. The cutter was there all night. His offspeed was working well which was what we wanted to work well anyway tonight against Tuscarora.”

“Colin threw a great game,” Tuscarora coach Cole Shain said, “... He had sharp stuff.”

The Colonels were unable to take advantage of Eli Miller’s single to start the bottom of the eighth and the Huskies erupted against the James Wood bullpen an inning later.

Connor Quill led off with a double over the first-base bag to start the Tuscarora at-bat which would last more than 30 minutes. Jimmie Domingue followed with a perfect bunt down the third baseline. Trying to get the speedy Domingue, McAlexander threw wild to first base, allowing Quill to score and Domingue to end up at second.

“You can’t draw it up any better than what happened,” Shain said. “Bunts change momentum. They really do and the offense sparked up.”

After Domingue swiped third base, Nick Sheehan lined a single up the middle to make it 2-0. After a sacrifice and a walk, Daniel Franchesci replaced McAlexander. Burkhart greeted him with another perfect bunt to load the bases. Franchesci plunked Keel to allow a run to score and walked Braydon Kelman to make it 4-0.

Cade Cornwell then entered for Franchesci. A wild pitch allowed one run to score and Ashton Peshke hit a sacrifice fly to center before Cornwell fanned Quill, the 10th batter in the outburst.

Michael Jackson (single) and John Copenhaver (hit by pitch) got on to open the ninth for the Colonels, but Burkhart retired the next three hitters on a fly ball, fielder’s choice grounder and a strikeout.

“Hats off to Tuscarora,” Pullen said. “They did what they needed to do. They executed when they needed to execute and they won the game. That’s what it comes down to.”

In his three innings, Burkhart, who throws harder than Keel, allowed three hits and struck out four with no walks. The two pitchers complimented each other well.

“Cole is a guy who works off of his offspeed and he’s a competitor,” Shain said. “You can’t tell if he’s doing a great job of having a rough inning. Bauer is a guy that comes in and is a little bit different. He throws a little bit firmer and has developed a slider during the season. Being able to have different arm slots and velocities really is a good change for us and they are both competitors.”

“They kept us off-balance with their offspeed,” McGuire said of the two Tuscarora pitchers. “They were hitting their spots. They were hitting the corners all night long and we just couldn’t execute.”

Tuscarora avenged a loss to the Colonels in last year’s regional semifinals that ended its season. “It’s been a long time waiting,” Shain said. “I think it’s the first region [baseball] championship in Tuscarora history and these guys deserve it.”

Pullen said his team will immediately get to preparing for Amherst County, who he watched against Louisa County on Thursday.

“Amherst reminds me of us last year,” he said. “They hit the ball well. They run the bases very aggressively and they’ve got some pitching.”

McGuire knows what the focus will be leading into the quarterfinal matchup. “It’s offense, offense, offense,” he said. “We’ve got to get the bats rolling. If we get the bats rolling, there’s nobody who can beat us. I have full confidence in everyone on the team to get the job done.”

— Contact Walt Moody at
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