Balanced Warriors advance

By Brad Fauber

FRONT ROYAL — Sherando has shown very few weaknesses on the baseball field this season, and the Warriors’ balance was on full display in Monday’s Northwestern District tournament semifinal game against No. 4 James Wood at Bing Crosby Stadium.

The top-seeded Warriors got an outstanding effort from junior Reid Entsminger on the mound, and Sherando’s offense erupted early to help power the Warriors to a 13-0 win over the Colonels in a game that ended in five innings. The win advances the Warriors to today’s championship game, where they will play No. 2 Millbrook at 6 p.m.

Sherando (19-1) jumped on James Wood starting pitcher Addison Barber quickly, sending 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the first inning while scoring seven runs to put the game out of reach early. Six of Sherando’s first-inning runs came with two outs, and timely hitting has been a constant for the Warriors this year.

“That’s pretty much some things we’ve been doing well offensively throughout the season, and that is that we’ve been finding ways to score runs with two outs,” Warriors coach Pepper Martin said. “That’s very important. You’re not always going to get your leadoff man on — you hope you do — but you have to have somebody to step up there with two outs with a runner in scoring position and get the job done, and we were able to do that early on and get that lead.”

The seven-run lead was plenty for Entsminger (7-0), who breezed through his five innings of work while allowing just two James Wood hits.

Entsminger — who entered Monday with a sub-0.50 ERA — walked two, hit a batter and struck out just one, but the junior was able to consistently work ahead of hitters and pitch to contact. The Warriors responded with several great defensive plays behind Entsminger on Monday, including a double play in the top of the fourth inning that nullified a leadoff hit-by-pitch.

“When I’m pitching, I let them hit the baseball. I don’t go for strikeouts or anything like that. I just try to stay away from walks and let them hit the ball,” Entsminger said. “My defense is great behind me, and I know they are, so I just … let my defense make plays.”

Entsminger needed just seven pitches to retire the Colonels (9-12) in the top of the first before the Warriors’ offense went to work in the bottom half of the inning.

Sherando sophomore Adam Whitacre started things off with a one-out triple off the fence in right field, and Whitacre scored on a grounder by senior Jacob Carney to give Sherando a 1-0 lead. Carney reached on an error on the play, and he later scored on a two-run double by John Bentley with two outs that gave the Warriors a 3-0 lead.

Senior Justin Angel followed with an RBI double, and RBI singles by Jeb Brown, Taylor Loudan and Whitacre gave Sherando a 7-0 lead after one inning.

“It was just crazy. We just kept hitting the ball and nothing could stop us,” Angel, who went 3-for-3 with three doubles and three RBIs, said. “It was definitely nice to keep getting contact after contact. It gives you a nice confidence boost.”

The Warriors added two more runs in the second off Barber, who gave way to reliever Cameron Gross in the third. Sherando chased Gross after a third of an inning with three more runs in the third, and the Warriors added a run in the bottom of the fourth off Noah Keller.

The bottom half of Sherando’s batting order carried the load for the Warriors’ offense on Monday, as 10 of the Warriors’ 15 hits came from Nos. 6 through 9 in the lineup. Those four batters — Bentley, Angel, Brown and Connor Stevenson — combined to go 10-for-12 with five doubles and nine RBIs.

“That’s what you call production. That’s what’s helping make us so strong offensively this year,” Martin said. “This year we’re pretty strong one through nine.”

Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com