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Warriors rally to eliminate Flucos in regionals

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Pepper Martin

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Chase Smallwood

Sherando 6, Fluvanna 5

By Ben Brooks - sports@nvdaily.com

STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando High School baseball coach Pepper Martin put it best following Monday afternoon's Region II tournament game.

"Sometimes you roll the dice and it comes up seven," he said. "And sometimes it comes up snake eyes."

On a sweltering Memorial Day afternoon, Martin's late-inning gamble paid big dividends. After tying the game with a two-out, RBI triple in the bottom of the seventh inning, Sherando freshman Reid Entsminger successfully stole home to lift the Warriors to a 6-5 come-from-behind victory over Fluvanna County in the first round of the regional tournament.

The Warriors (14-9) now travel to face Broad Run today at 6 p.m. in a quarterfinal matchup. It marks the third straight season the Warriors and Spartans have met in the regional tournament.

When Fluvanna starting pitcher Josh Barringer induced Tyler Quinn to ground into a double play, the Warriors were down to their last out in the seventh. Brandon Fletcher kept Sherando's hopes alive with a single. Entsminger then followed with a deep fly ball to right field that Fluvanna's Brock Harris couldn't run down. Entsminger's hit chased Barringer and brought in reliever T.J. Dudley.

Martin saw something in Dudley's delivery that made him think stealing home was possible. The veteran coach shared his thoughts with Entsminger, but not with the next batter, fellow freshman Chase Smallwood.

"I wanted to wait until Chase got down in the count a little," Martin said. "I wanted to give him a couple of pitches to see if he could drive him in. When he got to two strikes, all bets really should have been off. When Reid took off, Chase saw him in the corner of his eye and took the pitch."

"I'm glad he took the pitch or I might be in an ambulance right now," Entsminger said.

Fluvanna coaches and players were surprised by Sherando's boldness. Catcher Nick Algieri was slow to react with a tag. Instead, he framed what he and the rest of the Flying Flucos thought was an inning-ending strike three, allowing Entsminger to cross the plate standing up.

"I thought we had strike three two times," Fluvanna coach Mike Sheridan said. "Our kid took a knee-high fastball in the middle of the plate. The guy was hesitating making his calls all game long."

Smallwood didn't say whether he thought the pitch was a ball or strike, only that he was temporarily frozen when Entsminger came charging home.

"If Reid wasn't stealing, I probably would have swung at it," said Smallwood, who gave the Warriors a 4-3 lead with a two-out, RBI double in the fifth. "It was low. I thought it was going to be a ball, but then again you never know."

After spotting Fluvanna (12-11) a third-inning run, the Warriors stormed back with three runs in the bottom of the frame, one thanks to an errant pickoff attempt, a second on Chris Gray's RBI single, and the third on Fletcher's perfectly executed one-out suicide squeeze bunt.

The lead didn't last long. Harris tied the game with a two-run single in the top of the fourth. After tying the game again in the sixth on a Sherando error, Fluvanna took a 5-4 advantage on first baseman Sam Turner's towering solo homer to center in the seventh off Warriors reliever Tre Porter. Turner led Fluvanna's nine-hit attack with a 4-for-4 performance.

Though he didn't earn the victory, Sherando starting pitcher Zach Wagner kept the Warriors in the game. The winner in last week's Northwestern District tournament title game against Skyline, Wagner surrendered eight hits and struck out five over 5 2/3 innings.

"Zach has pitched two big games for us over the last week," Martin said. "We had another pitcher scheduled to pitch, but he missed practice. Zach may not have had command of all his pitches today, but he competed and gave us a chance to win."

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