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WINCHESTER — It truly was Senior Night at R. Charles Hott Field on Thursday night.

James Wood High School baseball coach Adrian Pullen had his lineup completely full of seniors as the Colonels took on Handley in the regular-season finale for both teams.

So maybe it was no surprise that a couple James Wood seniors made the big plays in a battle of area rivals, especially one on the mound.

Garett McAlexander pitched five no-hit innings and got out of a big jam in the sixth as the Colonels ended the Judges’ season with a 2-0 triumph. Bradley Kimble and John Copenhaver drove in runs as James Wood (12-8 overall, 7-1 Class 4 Northwestern District) overcame an outstanding pitching effort from Handley’s Landen Lewis.

“It’s Senior Night and you pay homage and respect for what they’ve done for four years, especially doing what we do and what we ask of our players,” said Pullen, who had 11 seniors on his 20-player roster. “Whether they were a starter or a non-starter, it was just relentless effort. They want to be here whether they were playing or not. They pick up their brother and they are great teammates and they deserved tonight. We put 10 seniors in the starting lineup and I wish there was a way to put in 11.”

McAlexander has been a stalwart all season for the Colonels and proved it again on Thursday. McAlexander improved to 6-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.39 with a nine-strikeout, two-walk performance. The right-hander threw 63 of his 90 pitches in the strike zone.

“Garett is Garett, right?,” Pullen said. “He’s a competitor. He’s a bulldog and he’s going to get it done. The kid is 100 percent effort. It doesn’t matter who he is going against.”

“Garett was pretty impressive,” catcher Copenhaver said. “All of his things were on. He was working the zone and his sliders were sharp as always. ‘Always trust G-Mac,’ that’s what we say.”

Handley wishes that McAlexander has been a little less sharp. The Judges (7-13, 2-6) needed to get a win on Thursday and then had to hope to end up in a tie with either Orange County or Charlottesville, who both were 8-10, to have a shot at a playoff spot.

Patrick Wingfield’s club ran into two good pitchers this week, falling 6-2 to a four-hitter by Sherando’s Dean Lamb (7-1) on Tuesday.

“That’s what I told the kids — both are good pitchers who were on their ‘A’ game,” Wingfield said. “I don’t feel like we rolled over the past two games. We just ran into two pitchers throwing great. We are familiar with Garett and he threw great today. He got his curveballs and sliders over pretty efficiently today and they caused us some trouble.”

McAlexander said he was well aware that he was throwing a no-hitter through five innings against the Judges and that people were mentioning it, which goes against old baseball superstition.

“The first couple of innings, I had my normal curveball,” said McAlexander of his success. “The slider started working toward the end. We made a couple of adjustments and did what needed to be done.”

It took the area’s best hitter to break up the no-hitter. Handley’s Kaplan Ambrose, who entered the contest with a .527 average, pulled a double to right field to break up McAlexander’s gem.

“He’s a great hitter,” McAlexander said. “Hitting .500 is insane. MLB players bat like .300 and they are the best.”

Charlie Allen followed with a single to right to put runners at first and third with no outs. Allen advanced to second on Staige Dolan’s safety squeeze, with Ambrose having to hold at third. McAlexander kept the Judges off the board by striking out Logan Ambrose on a breaking ball and getting Jake Swartz on a groundout.

“I focused on location,” McAlexander said of his approach in the tight spot. “We got a couple of outside sliders on the strikeout and got the rollover on the next at-bat. Our defense played great the whole game and came up with it when we needed it and got the out.”

“G-Mac buckled down and went after them,” Pullen said. “He’s not going to back away. He’s going to compete no matter the situation. He’s going to give it his all and that’s pretty good.”

McAlexander had to be on top of his game because Lewis was tough as well. The Handley right-hander walked one and struck out 11 Colonels on the evening.

“Landon was tremendous,” Wingfield said. “He’s done that all year. He’s had to pitch through some errors. When you look at a box score you can’t understand how much more you ask of a pitcher when you need more than one out.”

The Colonels got a run early after Lewis had fanned three of their first five hitters. Coby Nesselrodt hit a long fly ball to left that went for a double and Brady Kimble, who did not have many plate appearances this season, followed with an RBI single up the middle.

The contest stayed 1-0 until the fifth. With one out, Kemper Omps drilled a single to right. Pinch-hitter Carson Southern, the last James Wood senior to play, hit a roller back to the mound. Lewis attempted to get Omps at second, but the throw was wide.

With runners at first and second and Copenhaver at the plate, Omps took off for third. Handley third baseman Eli Shelton moved back toward the bag and Copenhaver grounded a single to left to score Omps.

“It was on me,” Omps said when asked if the Colonels had called a steal. “I have the green light. I got a good jump and I took off and he hit it in the perfect spot.”

Copenhaver said he had no idea Omps was going to be on the move. “With two strikes, I was sitting on a curveball because he had thrown me a bunch of fastballs,” Copenhaver said. “Coach [Kooper] Anderson is always preaching choke up and I just pulled the ball.”

Logan Bower made sure the Judges had no chance to rally in the top of the seventh. The junior closer struck out the side to end the contest.

Omps, who doubled in the third, and Nesselrodt each had two of the Colonels’ seven hits.

James Wood, the Class 4 runner-up in 2022 and a state semifinalist last season, enters this postseason with high hopes of making another run in the state tournament. They’ll host a Region 4D North quarterfinal on Wednesday.

“We’re right where I wanted to be,” Pullen said. “… I love our team. I love how we work and the effort we put out. We have the confidence that we can go out and play with anybody. That’s all a coach can ask of his players.”

And the Colonels believe their experience should help.

“We’re pushing trying to get that ring,” Omps said. “… I think the brotherhood is there. We all come together at the end of the day and push to be better.”

Despite seeing his team’s season end earlier than he had hoped, Wingfield said this campaign has energized a program that hasn’t always been as competitive with the area schools.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Wingfield. “We’ve been down for a while and very shallow in terms of our lineup. This year we came with a much stronger lineup. … I think we’re going in the right direction.”

The Judges graduate 10 seniors, including consistent starters Lewis, Dolan and Kaplan Ambrose, who finished the season with an astounding .517 average, which is currently more than 100 points higher than any other area player.

“He’s had nothing cheap this year, too,” Wingfield said of Ambrose, who is headed to Christopher Newport University. “… He’s hit against everyone this year. Actually, he’s probably gotten robbed of a few hits which sounds surprising. He’s a remarkable hitter.”

— Contact Walt Moody at

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