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STEPHENS CITY — Entering a game with the bases loaded isn’t exactly an ideal situation for a relief pitcher.

Having plunked a batter and going 3-0 on the next hitter with the tying run on third, that ratchets the pressure up another level.

But for the second time this season, Sherando High School sophomore Aaron DeHaven proved he could handle a tough spot, getting out of a jam in the sixth inning and then closing out a 4-3 triumph over James Wood on Tuesday.

Thanks to a fine defensive play from first baseman Brady Largent and a perfect seventh, DeHaven helped the Warriors improve to 4-0, while the Colonels, a Class 4 state semifinalist last season, dropped to 0-3.

“We have yet to give him an easy entrance spot,” said Sherando coach Craig Bodenschatz of DeHaven, who in his first varsity game pitched a scoreless inning to close out a 3-1 win over Millbrook, the Warriors’ first win over the Pioneers since 2019. “Two [appearances] in a row for him to come in and be that guy in a tight spot and just compete. That’s what we preach — compete, compete, compete. He took a couple there and scared us, but he got it done.”

Sherando, led by two hits from Dylan Frazier, had taken advantage of some rough fielding by the Colonels and solid pitching from Giancarlo Lisciandrello to build a comfortable 4-0 lead through five innings. But that all changed in the sixth.

Deuce Strosnider led off with a hit and Brock Whipkey walked to put runners at first and second. Parker Kerns then lifted a fly in foul territory down in right field that Tucker LaFever made a fine catch on, but his throw to third base was wild and went into the dugout. Strosnider scored and Whipkey advanced to third on the play.

Garett McAlexander followed with an RBI double to left-center. Zach Woskobunik (walk) and Evan Lafollette (hit by a 3-2 pitch) reached to load the bases and chase Lisciandrello.

DeHaven entered and hit John Copenhaver with his first pitch to make the score 4-3. He then went to 3-0 against lefty Cade Delawder. DeHaven then threw a pair of strikes and Delawder fouled off a pair of pitched before pulling a hot shot toward right. Largent made a tough pick-up and fired home to catcher Frazier for the force out.

“I was just hoping to get out of it,” DeHaven said of the jam. “I was just trying to fight back on the guy and get him to 3-2 and work from there.”

“Brady made a heck-of-a play right there,” Bodenschatz said. “With the bases loaded and to come up with a play like that and throw a strike home in a big spot, that’s a heck-of-a play.”

DeHaven wasn’t out of the woods, yet. Kemper Omps worked the count to 2-2 before DeHaven got him on a line drive to shortstop Tyler Strosnider.

In the seventh, DeHaven struck out the first two batters and LaFever made a great diving catch in right-center to end it.

“I was kind of nervous, but I don’t think I let it get the best of me,” said DeHaven. “I pitched like I normally pitch and it worked out.

“Hey, he’s a young kid that came in and shook off the jitters and shut us down,” James Wood coach Adrian Pullen said. “Hat’s off to him.”

“Once he got through that sixth, the seventh was a whole lot better for him,” Bodenschatz said of DeHaven, who was a standout JV pitcher as a freshman. “He’s getting more and more comfortable and that’s obvious. He’s a sophomore and those are big spots. You don’t get that kind of a spot in a JV game.”

“My confidence is definitely better than last year,” said DeHaven, who throws four pitches (fastball, change-up, curveball and slider). “I know I can go in there and get some guys out. I just play the best I can.”

With a nine days between games, Pullen decided to go with a staff-by-committee against Sherando to get multiple pitchers work. McAlexander started and had two shutout innings before giving way to Cade Cornwell.

In Cornwell’s first inning, the Colonels’ defense helped the Warriors score three times. Trey Williams led of with a single and moved to second on an outfield error and to third on a wild pitch. Hayden LaFever walked and then took off for second. The throw got through into the outfield and with James Wood center fielder Omps shaded toward left-center LaFever steam all of the way around to score to make it 2-0. Frazier then narrowly missed his third homer of the season, but singled and moved up on an error. Courtesy runner Isaiah Doedan would score on a pair of wild pitches to make it 3-0.

In the fifth, Hayden LaFever singled and moved up two bases on an errant pickoff throw to first. Frazier followed with an RBI single to left to continue his blazing start. Through four games, Frazier is hitting .538, with two homers, and seven RBIs.

“I’ve been working hard in the offseason,” Frazier said of the reason for his early-season success. “A lot of the coaches are helping me a lot. [In the offseason], I went indoors and hit the machines. My dad throws to me every day after practice. It’s putting in the extra work.”

“I’m not going to say a word to Dylan Frazier,” said Bodenschatz with a chuckle when asked about Frazier’s hot start. “He’s a kid that works so hard in the offseason. If I told Dylan Frazier to run through that wall back there because it would make him a better player, he’d run right into that wall. He’s that kind of kid. He eats, sleeps, talks, walks and does everything baseball. It’s rewarding to see a kid that works so hard start to see the success.”

Tyler Strosnider also had two hits for the Warriors. Lisciandrello (2-0) allowed six hits and five walks, with three strikeouts.

Deuce Strosnider had two hits and Tyler Walter had shutout inning of relief for the Colonels, who couldn’t overcome four errors.

“Physical errors are going to happen,” said Pullen, whose team next plays at Millbrook on March 28. “We’re playing some young guys and we know they are not going to be perfect. Nobody is perfect in this game. We’ve got to eliminate some mental mistakes and string some things together. … It comes down to execution and right now we’re not executing. I’m a long ways from being in panic mode. It’s not how you play in March. It’s how you play in May.”

The Warriors have five games in the next nine days, with a district clash against Liberty set for Friday. They’ll enter that clash fresh off a win against one of the state’s top programs over the past three seasons.

“They’ve been very dominant in the past years,” Frazier said of the Colonels. “It feels good to beat a very dominant school. It gives us a lot of encouragement to keep pushing.”

Bodenschatz said while confidence breeds success, the Warriors aren’t going to be overconfident. “They are well aware that we have yet to put it all together,” he said. “That’s what we’re striving toward. We’re trying to fix mistakes and get better each time out.”

— Contact Walt Moody at

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