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WINCHESTER — After his team knocked off James Wood earlier this season, Sherando High School baseball coach Craig Bodenschatz was adamant that the teams in Region 4D still had to go through the Colonels to make it to the state playoffs.

On Friday, James Wood, a state runner-up in 2022 and semifinalist last year, showed that Bodenschatz wasn’t exaggerating.

Taking on a hot Warriors team, the Colonels got a strong mound effort from Garett McAlexander and timely hitting from first-year starters Logan Bower and Parker Kerns to belt Sherando 10-1 at R. Charles Hott Field.

McAlexander, a lanky right-hander, held the area’s most prolific offense to six hits and a run over six innings, while Bower and Kerns had three hits apiece as the Colonels (3-4, 3-1 Class 4 Northwestern District) became the first team to score more than seven runs against Sherando (10-2, 5-1) this season.

“It was very important,” said McAlexander of the victory. “They are a great team and they are winning a lot of games. Coming off of a loss (11-6 against Broad Run on Tuesday), we hit well, pitched well and as a team played very well. It was good timing and we’re going to try to carry it on throughout the rest of the season.”

After the deluge that took place Thursday night and early Friday morning, it took a Herculean effort to get the two rivals on the diamond Friday evening. Colonels coach Adrian Pullen said he and assistant coach C.J. Morton arrived at 11:15 a.m. and began working on getting the water off the field, even using a shop vacuum to suck up the puddles. The field was pristine by the 6:30 p.m. start time.

“I’ll do anything for these kids,” said Pullen, who emphasized both sides wanted to get the game in. “They do a lot for me and I’ll do anything for them.”

“Kudos to Coach Pullen and his staff for getting this field ready to play,” Bodenschatz said. “And kudos to them for being more prepared to play than we were tonight. … Once things turned, we lost our fight tonight and that’s disappointing.”

The contest started as a tight pitcher’s duel between McAlexander and Sherando sophomore Dean Lamb. Both pitchers stranded runners in scoring position through three shutout innings, but the contest changed in the fourth.

The Warriors broke through first. Neil Holborn drew a one-out walk and moved to second on Tyler Strosnider’s infield single and scored as Brady Largent chopped a single into left field. McAlexander then got a pop-up and third baseman Kerns made a nice play on a tough grounder to end the threat.

The Colonels rebounded in the bottom of the inning. Bower drilled a double into the left-center field gap to lead off the inning. McAlexander walked and pinch-runner Colin Thomas swiped second to put two runners in scoring position.

Zach Woskobunik followed with a bullet to right field, but Tucker LaFever made the catch and the runners did not advance. Kerns then skied a fly ball to left that was misjudged and fell for a hit. Bower scored on the play and Thomas came around on a throwing error to second in an attempt to get Kerns as the Colonels took a 2-1 lead.

After a walk to Evan LaFollette, John Copenhaver drilled an RBI double down the third baseline and Kemper Omps drove in another with a groundout to put the Colonels up 4-1.

“It was tight early because we weren’t executing offensively,” Pullen said. “Then we finally got a breakthrough and we started believing. It kind of catches fire and gets contagious.”

James Wood’s offense was back at it again in the fifth. With one out, Bower reached on an infield single and moved to second on an errant pickoff throw. McAlexander then smoked a double to left-center to make it 5-1.

Woskobunik followed with an RBI single and moved up on an error. Kerns’ single put runners and first and third. Reliever Aaron DeHaven then appeared to get out of the jam with a strikeout and an infield pop-up, but the fly ball was dropped as two Colonels scored. Omps capped the five-run outburst with an opposite field single down the third baseline to make it 9-1.

Bower, who raised his season average to .444, said he and his teammates have been putting in a lot of work in the cages. “There’s still more to come from that,” he said when asked if the hard work is paying off. “I have more room for improvement.”

The junior started the season lower in the Colonels lineup, but he hit in the No. 5 spot against the Warriors.

“He got things started with a double and got everybody else believing, ‘Hey, we can do it,’” Pullen said of Bower. “Hitting is contagious and when one goes it starts going down the line.”

Bodenschatz thought some things were contagious on the Warriors side of things that weren’t so good. He didn’t like the body language from his players in the contest and was unhappy his seniors didn’t show more leadership.

“Disappointing is the word I’ve already said 100 times since the game has been over,” Bodenschatz said. “We’re going to get back to work, work hard and turn that thing back around. It’s back to the lab. It’s one game and we can’t let one game dictate on how we are going to go from here.”

McAlexander had one more sticky situation in the top of the fifth as Hayden LaFever and Dylan Frazier hit back-to-back singles with two outs. Facing the tough Holborn (hitting .360 entering the game), he stranded runners at first and third with a strikeout, pumping his fist on the way to the dugout.

“Whenever there’s runners in scoring position and the game is closer, it’s big to keep them from scoring,” said McAlexander, who walked three and struck out four. “We had our energy up the whole game which was a good sign.”

“Garett’s effort was amazing,” Bower said. “I love Garett’s effort. He’d come to the dugout all pumped and stuff after he throws his inning. I love him, man.”

“He had all three pitches working tonight,” Pullen said of McAlexander. “He worked in and out and got ahead of hitters and we were careful with a couple of guys.”

Woskobunik smacked an RBI single in the sixth for the Colonels’ final run. Bower came on to pitch in the seventh and struck out two of the three batters he faced.

Omps and Woskobunik had two hits apiece for James Wood, which had lost 4-3 at Sherando earlier in the season. Hayden LaFever and Strosnider had two hits for the Warriors.

“We showed tonight the kind of team we can beat,” Pullen said while complimenting Sherando. “We’re right where we talk about every day. We need to be in the top four [in the North Division of Region 4D] to move on. We’ve got to keep it to one game at a time and believing in each other and we’ll get hot.”

The Colonels next host Tuscarora on Monday, while Sherando travels to Brentsville on Tuesday.

— Contact Walt Moody at
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