By Tommy Keeler Jr.
PULASKI --Reid Entsminger wasn't coming out of the game.
The Sherando junior struggled in the sixth inning, and had thrown a lot of pitches, but there was no way he wasn't going back out to finish what he started.
Entsminger saved some of his best work on the mound for last to help the Warriors pull out a 4-2 victory over Amherst in the Group AA baseball state semifinals held at Calfee Park.
"We were initally not planning on sending him out for the seventh," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "He had over 100 pitches, not a big amount over, but still he was over. He would have none of it. He said 'coach this is my game to win or lose. I've come this far, I want to go back out there.' [Assistant] coach Bodenschatz said 'it's yours.'"
Entsminger struck out pinch hitter Tyler Carter and D.A. Christian to start the seventh. Jacob Orme then flied out to end the game, and the Warriors began to celebrate on the field at Calfee Park.
Even though he was tired, Entsminger said he knew he had to finish the game.
"I was just pumped and ready to go in the seventh inning," Entsmiger said. "Three more outs to get to the state championship -- that's a once in a lifetime thing. So I was just ready to go."
The Warriors trailed 1-0 early to previously undefeated Amherst, but an unlikely hero stepped up to help bring them back. Senior Jeb Brown, who hits eighth in the lineup, had an RBI single in the top of the second to drive in Entsminger.
"[Brown] got that first RBI to help tie the score," Martin said. "And I think that sent them a message. 'Hey we're going to be here all day competing with you. You don't intimidate us. Were not afraid to compete with you, and were going to be here.'"
The Warriors (25-1) took the lead in the top of the fourth when Brown had another RBI single.
"The only thing I was really thinking about was just drive in the runs," Brown said of his two RBIs in the game.
In the bottom of the fourth the Warriors made a big defensive play, which helped keep them in front. Amherst's Hunter Floyd doubled with two outs. Will Keesee then singled to center, but Sherando center fielder Adam Whitacre threw a perfect strike to catcher Chase Smallwood who tagged out Floyd at home plate to end the inning.
"From the information we were able to gather on [Amherst], they feed off of emotion and momentum," Martin said. "Had they scored that run, whose to say what would have come next. When Adam [Whitacre] throws that runner out trying to score it took a little air out of them for a couple innings."
The Warriors added to their momentum in the top of the fifth, as senior Jacob Carney crushed a pitch from Amherst starter Jess Stinnett over the right-field wall for a 3-1 lead. It was Carney's first career home run.
"I pretty much told the guys if I got a fastball, after my second at-bat I struck out, I wasn't going to miss it," Carney said. "And I'm not sure if it was a fastball or a change-up, but I wasn't going to miss it."
The Lancers (25-1) had their chances in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Logan Pingley drew a walk from Entsminger. Peyton Maddox singled, and Michael Story drew a walk to load the bases.
After a talk on the mound with Bodenschatz, Entsminger regrouped and Floyd hit a ground ball that was almost turned for a double play. Story was forced out at second, and pinch-runner Bradley Campbell scored to cut the lead to 3-2. Keesee flied out to end the inning.
"Reid Entsminger has ice water running through his veins," Martin said. "He's just incredible. One of the greatest competitors I've ever coached."
The Warriors scored a run in the top of the seventh, aided by an Amherst throwing error on a pickoff attempt.
Entsminger finished with 10 strikeouts, and allowed only seven hits in the game.
"Today I was comfortable on the mound," Entsminger said. "I felt really good. I was hitting my spots where coach called them. They couldn't hit the outside pitch and that's where we kept it. And it worked out all game."
Carney, Brown and John Bentley each had two hits to lead the Warriors, who have now won 13 games in a row.
Sherando will play Tunstall, a 3-2 winner over Woodgrove, in Sunday's state final at Radford University at 1 p.m. It will be the first state championship game in the program's history. Martin said Bentley will get the start against Tunstall.
"If everyone plays up to their full potential, we should come out on top tomorrow," Entsminger said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org