Warriors move on after late rally

By Tommy Keeler Jr.

STEPHENS CITY — Throughout the postseason Sherando has shown the ability to respond whenever an opponent would take a lead, or when they simply needed to score. In Tuesday night’s Group AA state baseball quarterfinal against Culpeper, the Warriors did it again.

Sherando rallied from deficit in the fifth inning and went on to a 5-3 win over the Blue Devils.

“We’re just not going to let up,” Sherando junior Reid Entsminger said. “It doesn’t matter if the other team scores four, five, or six runs. We’re just going to fight, and we’re going to play until the seventh inning, until the last out is played.”

The Warriors (24-1) have had several different players step up when they needed it over the last week, and on Tuesday it was John Bentley’s turn.

The Warriors trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Chase Smallwood was hit by a pitch from Culpeper starter Blaine Lafin. Entsminger then drew a walk. Bentley followed with a two-run double into center field to give the Warriors a 3-2 lead.

“I knew our bats would always come through when we needed them to, and we’ve always had clutch hits,” Bentley said. “He gave me a fastball right down the middle and I took advantage of it.”

With the hit, Bentley helped his own cause on the mound. Bentley started and threw six innings, allowing only eight hits, while striking out six.

“It’s the state tournament — you gotta be a little nervous,” Bentley said. “I was able to relax and settle down when we got that run in the bottom of the first. I started to get into a rhythm and felt comfortable.”

The Warriors led 1-0 until the top of the fifth. Cory Slawson led off with a double, and J.P. Gorby followed with a single. A two-base error scored both runners to give the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead.

The Warriors responded immediately, and Bentley said that helped give him a little more energy for the sixth inning, in which he struck out the side.

“We had the lead back and that really hyped me a little bit, and I knew my team needed some outs,” Bentley said. “I came out there and I got the strikes that I needed and I was able to get out of there.”

The Warriors scored two key insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth with solid baserunning by Adam Whitacre and two errors from Culpeper.

Bentley started the seventh, but gave up a double to Gorby and a single to Lafin to start the inning. Entsminger then came on in relief. He gave up a sacrifice fly to Jermain Butler, and then John Anderson hit into a game-ending double play.

“I was just focusing on getting the batters out,” Entsminger said. “We got that double play. That’s really all I was trying to do, was just pitch and get outs.”

Sherando coach Pepper Martin said he was very pleased with Bentley’s performance on the mound.

“Whenever he got in trouble it was because he got behind in the count. When he cruised through the innings, he was getting ahead in the count,” Martin said. “His cutter was probably his most effective off-speed pitch tonight. He’s just a competitor. He has been all season.”

Bentley had two hits and two RBIs to lead the Warriors, and Whitacre added two bunt singles.

Sherando will now play Amherst, a 3-2 winner over Bassett, on Friday at Calfee Park in Pulaski.

“We’re pumped up,” Entsminger said. “Going down to Pulaski, hopefully we’ll play some good Sherando baseball down there in the south. Hopefully whoever we play, we’ll just do the same thing we’ve done the past few weeks.”

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com