By Jeff Nations
From what Sherando baseball coach Pepper Martin saw last season, he was fairly certain the Warriors had their closer situation settled coming into this year.
At least, that was the thought before Martin checked in with Warriors pitching coach Craig Bodenschatz about senior left-hander John Bentley.
"Initially I thought he was going to be our closer," Martin said. "He's a left-hander who throws hard and he's got that biting curveball. Coach Bodenschatz wanted to give him a shot at starting, and based on what we saw last week it looks like he'll be doing that for us."
Making his first career varsity start last week against Northwestern District rival Skyline, Bentley was practically perfect. In four scoreless innings, Bentley allowed just Nick Helmick's infield single in the fourth inning as Sherando earned an 11-0 victory in five innings at Bing Crosby Stadium.
Bentley, who struck out nine and walked two to earn the victory, is The Northern Virginia Daily's Male Prep Athlete of the Week for March 24-March 30.
"He did a real nice job," Martin said. "He had some zip on his fastball and his breaking ball was biting hard. And he was able to get ahead in the count.
"After that first inning, he started to get ahead of hitters so he was able to pitch ahead in the count a lot. I think that helped him out quite a bit."
Martin credits Bodenschatz with developing what looks to be another deep Sherando pitching staff. While Martin is preoccupied with coaching the Warriors' varsity wrestling team during the winter months, it falls to Bodenschatz to run Sherando's 15-practice window during the cold-weather months. The progress of pitchers like Bentley and Adam Whitacre, who closed out that win against Skyline with a scoreless fifth, is evidence that Bodenschatz took his job seriously this winter.
Bentley is expected to do more than just pitch for the Warriors, though. Last year, he served as a fourth outfielder ready to spell Sherando's regulars. This year, he's got a starting job and has had a significant role in Sherando's 3-0 start, including a 2-0 slate against district opposition.
"When he doesn't pitch, he starts in right field for us," Martin said. "He's been hitting the ball well for us."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>