By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- After winning the first three games of the season rather handily, Sherando was in need of a game that tested the mental toughness of its players in tight situations.
Millbrook provided that test for the Warriors on Tuesday, as a young Pioneers offense continually pushed Sherando's defense to the brink. But the Warriors were able to respond to every obstacle that Millbrook threw their way, and Sherando kept its perfect record intact with a 4-0 Northwestern District baseball victory.
Sherando starting pitcher Reid Entsminger led the Warriors defense, which stranded 11 Millbrook baserunners in the contest, including seven runners in scoring position.
"In all honesty, we needed a game like this," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "We needed to see how we would respond in a tough game situation. And [Millbrook] did an excellent job. They were disciplined at the plate ... and at times it got them some baserunners. We just found a way to work out of the inning, make the big play defensively and help our pitchers out."
Entsminger appeared to be walking a tightrope for nearly the entirety of his five-inning outing, as the junior right-hander was forced to work out of several jams, including bases-loaded situations in the both the second and fourth innings.
After Sherando (4-0, 3-0 Northwestern) manufactured a run in the top of the first inning to take a 1-0 lead against Pioneers starter Matt Hendershot, Millbrook (2-5, 1-1) seemed intent on answering in the bottom of the frame.
Entsminger was able to get the first two outs of the inning on a pair of line-outs, but then gave up a single to Pioneers No. 3 hitter Jacob Jaye and a walk to Ryan Hartigan to put a runner in scoring position. Entsminger got Zach Hughes out on a comebacker to the mound to end the threat.
Millbrook again turned up the heat on Sherando's defense in the second inning with another two-out rally attempt, as a single and two walks loaded the bases for the Pioneers. But Entsminger once again induced a weak groundout to escape the inning.
Entsminger allowed just three hits in his five innings of work, but the junior issued five walks in the game.
"It was just one of those days where I couldn't get a call. It would be on the corner and the ump was just like 'No, it's a ball,'" said Entsminger, who improved to 2-0 on the mound this season with Tuesday's win. "That happened a few times, but I fought through it and I got the third out eventually, so it worked out well."
Sherando's offense provided some breathing room in the top of fourth inning, as a pair of Millbrook errors put runners on second and third with no outs for No. 6 hitter John Bentley. Bentley took advantage of the Pioneers' defensive blunders, sending a first-pitch fastball up the middle for a two-run single to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead.
"I saw that Millbrook had pulled the defense in and I knew that I just needed to get a nice hard ground ball or just get it into the outfield," Bentley said. "[Hendershot] gave me a fastball right down the middle and that was what I was looking for, and I just got a hold of it."
The Pioneers tried to respond once more, loading the bases again with two outs, but a groundout by Daniel Nawrocki ended the inning.
Neither team was particularly sharp defensively, as Millbrook committed five errors while Sherando committed four. Luckily for the Warriors, their defense was able to step up when it needed to, and two double plays helped thwart several Millbrook rallies.
"We made a couple of errors defensively, but when we needed to make a play to get out of an inning with no runs scored and no damage done, our guys did the job," Martin said.
Sherando added an insurance run in the top of the fifth off Millbrook reliever Trenton Burgreen when senior Jacob Carney (1-for-4, two RBIs) plated Adam Whitacre on a groundout to second.
Bentley came on in relief of Entsminger in the sixth inning and pitched two scoreless innings to pick up his first save of the season.
Millbrook coach Brian Burke said it was disappointing that the Pioneers were unable to cash in on offense, but he praised his team's effort on Tuesday.
"I was very pleased with our effort all-in-all against a quality club like that," Burke said. "To come out and put them through a game like this where they've got to fight and scratch and claw -- I'm impressed with our kids."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com