By Dennis Atwood - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- The area thunderstorms bypassed the James Wood High School baseball field, enabling an on-time start for a wild American Legion District 16 baseball matchup Friday night.
Host Winchester Post 21 knocked out 18 hits and committed five errors, while Manassas Post 158 tallied 13 hits and also made five errors, as Winchester prevailed, 15-10.
"Early in the season, fielding wasn't really an issue," Post 21 coach Kyle Smallwood said. "Lately, I don't know if it's been constant playing, then a break. I don't know what the issue is, but it's something we've got to straighten out for the tournament."
The first two innings were routine as host Winchester Post 21 scored two in the first inning and added another tally in the second, while starting pitcher Taylor Loudan shut out visiting Manassas by facing only six batters.
Manassas actually opened the game with a single by lead-off batter Clarence Washington, who was caught stealing. Mason Clark drew a walk, but he was also gunned down by catcher Chase Smallwood.
In the bottom of the first, Post 21 got things going with two outs with three consecutive hits. Cody Unger and Chase Smallwood singled, and Ethan Emmert knocked them both in with a double to center.
In the home second, Nice Goode and Brian Thomas hit consecutive singles to right, then pulled a nifty double steal, with catcher John Kohlhaas' throw hitting Thomas and bounding high behind second base, allowing Goode to score easily and giving Winchester a 3-0 lead.
Things got wild in the third, starting with visiting Manassas Post 158 batting around to put a four-spot on the scoreboard.
Kohlhaas led off and reached on an error by second baseman Jacob Carney. Jack Yochem singled and Austin Menzies walked to load the bases.
Carney misplayed Washington's grounder, allowing Kohlhaas to score an unearned run.
Winchester then turned an unusual double play as Mason Clark flew out to left fielder Brian Thomas, who then threw to second baseman Carney to cut down Yochem after he took too wide a lead off second.
Chris Hoffa then reached on an error by shortstop Nick Goode, and Matt Quinn and Connor Redmon each followed with an RBI single to put Post 158 ahead, 4-0, with all runs unearned.
Winchester Post 21 (18-3, 13-3 District 16) answered immediately, and louder, sending 12 batters to the plate in the bottom of the third to score eight runs on six hits, three Manassas errors, a hit batsman, two wild pitches, and a balk.
Big blows in the outburst were an RBI double by Carney, a two-RBI single by Smallwood (2-for-2, 3 RBI, 2 runs), and an RBI single by Ryan Hartigan.
Manassas scored its fifth run (also unearned) in the fourth.
Nick Miller relieved Barth to start the fourth inning. Barth surrendered 11 runs (five earned) on 11 hits, two strikeouts, a hit batsman and two wild pitches.
Daniel Nawrocki took over mound duties from Loudan to start the fifth frame. Loudan surrendered five runs (all unearned) on six hits, three strikeouts and one walk.
Manassas scored its sixth run (also unearned) in the sixth.
Winchester tacked on two more runs in the fifth (one unearned) and one each in the seventh and eighth off reliever Yochem, to build a 15-6 lead.
But Post 158 had not yet folded its tent, and scored four runs (all earned) on four hits off Nawrocki, who was relieved by Addison Barber.
Barber gave up a single to Yochem, then induced a game-ending double play grounder by Austin Menzies.
Nawrocki (3-0) picked up the win by working 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on six hits, seven strikeouts, a walk and a hit batsman.
Carney was 3-for-6 (single, double, triple, two RBIs, thre runs), lacking only a homer to hit for the cycle, to improve his batting average to .490, but also committed two errors. Unger went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI, and Goode was 3-for-5 with two runs.
"I'm not a big home run hitter, so [the cycle] probably not gonna happen," Carney said. "I made a couple of errors out there. In the last couple of games, we've been making more errors than usual. I don't know what it is. I know we're capable of making the plays we're not making.
"We're gonna have to get the fielding squared away before the tournament because I know we're not going to win by giving up 10 runs."
"At the beginning of the year, we couldn't make an error, but we played six games last week, and we played Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we have a doubleheader tomorrow," Post 21 manager Steve Smallwood said.
"Now these guys who want to play college baseball are finding out what it's like. You gotta be ready to play every day. I think they're just tired and worn out. We'll have a few days off before the tournament, so I hope they'll be re-energized and refocused."
The Post 21 roster carries five players from Sherando's Group AA state championship squad - graduates Justin Angel (1B), John Bentley (P/OF), Jacob Carney (2B/SS) and Taylor Loundan (SS/P), and rising senior Chase Smallwood (C/P/1B).
Bentley and Carney have signed to play baseball at Shepherd University, and Loudan did the same for Christopher Newport.
Post 21 has additional college-bound talent in Clarke County grad Ethan Emmart, who will be returning Potomac State, and Handley alumnus Jacob Rudolph, who is headed to the University of Mary Washington.
Post 21 sports an awesome .357 team batting average and a gaudy .528 on-base percentage.
On the mound, Post 21's pitching staff has a collective .251 ERA and Chase Smallwood has a remarkable 0.39 ERA in support of his 3-0 record.
Post 21 will wrap up regular-season play with a doubleheader (visitor-home) against the Stafford Post 290 Americans at the Stafford Legion complex starting at 1 p.m. today.
The District 16 tournament starts on July 23, with Post 21 hosting a first-round game (opponent TBD).