Millbrook clinches No. 2 seed for district baseball tourney

WINCHESTER — Millbrook needed a win against James Wood on Thursday to clinch the No. 2 seed in the Class 4 Northwestern baseball tournament.

The Colonels were just looking for a victory to snap a three-game skid and win on Senior Day at R. Charles Hott Field.

The Pioneers got ahead early and held off multiple rally attempts from the Colonels to secure a 5-1 victory.

Starter Haden Madagan tossed five shutout innings and the Pioneers got four runs in the second inning and managed to stave off the Colonels, who left eight runners on base over the final four innings.

Millbrook (13-6, 9-3 district) will now have the possibility to host at least two games in the district tourney, which the Pioneers may have to win to secure a Region 4C playoff berth. Sherando (11-0 district) already has clinched the top seed and an automatic regional berth.

The Pioneers missed on an opportunity to seal the second seed on Tuesday with a 5-3 loss to Kettle Run.

"I guess it feels good after the other night having the chance to do it there [in Nokesville]," Millbrook coach Brian Burke said. "I thought the kids were a little more focused tonight. The kids came out of the box and got the runs we needed and made it stand up.

"The kids got it done tonight. I'm proud," he added. "We'll see how it plays out, but we've got to be ready to defend our home field."

"We needed to capitalize tonight and get that win, so we can have a home-field advantage for that first game," Madagan said.

For the Colonels, it was another frustrating outing where they could not get the big hit. During their current skid they have been held to two runs or less three times, including a 2-1 loss to Sherando on Wednesday.

"If we are not going to score any runs, we are not going to beat anybody no matter how good our pitching and defense is," said James Wood coach Brent Lockhart, whose team dropped to 7-12, 3-8. "... We just didn't have any clutch hits with runners on base. That's the answer, until we score runs it's going to be tight games like that. Take away their big inning and we have a ballgame there."

Millbrook wasted little time jumping on Colonels starter Nate White, sending seven batters to the plate in each of the first two innings.

With John Rosa on via a fielder's choice with one out, Jalen Tyson sent White sprawling with a bullet through the middle into center field. With runners at first and third, Michael Robertson lined an 0-2 pitch into center to put the Pioneers up 1-0.

White worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam to end the inning, but wasn't as lucky in the second partly because of two big errors.

Millbrook's Cris Burger led off the inning with a one-hop double off the fence in left. Daniel Croyle then reached on a slow roller that put baserunners at the corners. Logan Hartigan reached on an error that scored Burger. Rosa also reached on an error that scored a run. Hartigan scored easily on a wild pitch and Tyson's grounder plated Rosa to make it 5-0.

Meanwhile Madagan cruised through the first three innings facing the minimum, thanks to some help from his friends. Madagan walked three batters, but each was erased. Shortstop Rosa eliminated the first on a double-play grounder and catcher Burger took care of the other two by throwing out basestealers in the first and third innings.

Burger made several visits to the mound in the early going.

"I was just telling him to relax," Burger said. "He was falling over in the beginning in the first inning. I just told him to stand straight up. He was aiming it. [After the first], he did well and hit his spots and was consistently throwing strikes."

Luke Gross replaced White and cooled off the Pioneer hitters. Gross opened with three perfect innings, getting six of the outs on ground balls. He'd finish with five scoreless frames, allowing just one hit and no walks.

"Luke did an excellent job," Lockhart said. "The big thing about Luke is that he was getting ahead early and he was able to throw two or three pitches for a strike. That's anybody. It doesn't matter how hard you throw if you are able to located the balls where you want them — in and out and keep low. ... He did exactly what we expect from every pitcher. I tip my hat to Luke tonight."

James Wood threatened in the fourth, but Madagan wriggled out of a big jam. Colby Monroe led off the inning with a single to break up the no-hitter. Two walks loaded the bases with one out, but Madagan came up big. The senior got Jayden Nixon swinging and Jacob Bell on a called third strike to end the threat.

James Wood again threatened in the fifth. With one out, Tylor McBride singled up the middle and Jaden Ashby looped a single single over short.

Madagan survived again. First he got Monroe on a liner to left fielder Luke Chuchhill. Then he made an athletic play of his own. Kaden Spaid hit a slow roller that first baseman Tyson ranged over to field and then threw a bullet to Madagan, who just beat Spaid and managed to hold the bag.

Madagan left after allowing three hits, five walks and he struck out three.

"Haden is coming back and hasn't thrown a lot for us," Burke said. "He has been injured most of the year and been unable to pitch. ... Of course, I would love for him to be better than he was, cut down on the walks and challenge the hitters and pitch to contact a little more. It will come. I'm not too worried about him. He's a competitor and has been there before."

"The curveball late in the count felt good," Madagan said. "The change-up got them and the fastball jammed them."

The Colonels finally broke through in the sixth against reliever Chandler Ballenger. Aden Payne lacd Ballenger's first pitch for a single to left. One out later, Nixon smoked a one-hopper off of Ballenger for an infield hit and Bell walked to load the bases. Lucas Whitacre's sacrifice fly to left-center plated Payne, but Ballenger got McBride on a called third strike to end the threat.

Ballenger struck out the side in the seventh, while allowing one walk.

Burger likes what he see from his teammates as the playoffs loom.

"Heading into the postseason, all we have to do is for everybody to have each others' backs," the senior said. "When someone is down, just pick them right back up."

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