By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER -- Chase Smallwood and his Winchester Post 21 teammates weren't about to let history repeat itself.
Last year Post 21 lost its opening District 16 American Legion baseball tournament game to Post 72 Warrenton, and it looked like they might do it again on Tuesday night.
With the game tied in the late innings, Smallwood's sacrifice fly helped give Winchester a 5-4 victory over Warrenton to keep lightning from striking twice.
"When I came in to catch [in the sixth inning] I said this could happen -- I don't want this to happen again," Smallwood said. "I knew it wouldn't, because I knew [pitcher] Daniel [Nawrocki] was going to come through clutch. It's always in the backs of everybody's minds that played last year."
With the game tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh, Winchester's Taylor Loudan led off with a triple. Smallwood's sacrifice fly drove in Loudan to give Winchester a 5-4 lead.
"With a guy on third my goal is to hit the ball as hard as I can," Smallwood said. "If it goes out, it goes out. I want to get a ball in the air somewhere deep where Taylor scores easily. I was looking for a pitch up and I had seen him three times already. He threw me a fastball high right at the eyes and I said, 'I can get under this easily and swing hard on it.' I swung hard on it and [hit it] deep to center field."
Winchester (15-4) scored first in the bottom of the third. Loudan was hit by a pitch by Warrenton starter Donny Forgacs. Cody Unger followed with a single. Smallwood then hit an infield single, and a throwing error on the play scored Loudan.
John Bentley followed with an RBI single, and another error scored Smallwood for a 3-0 lead.
Warrenton cut into the lead in the top of the fifth. Garrett Croson drew a one-out walk from Smallwood. One out later, Max Winn reached on an error. Justin Gardiner then doubled to center field to cut the lead to 3-2.
Winchester responded in the bottom of the fifth. Loudan led off with a single, and Unger followed with a double. Smallwood had an RBI single to extend the lead to 4-2. Bentley then hit into a double play, and Justin Angel grounded out to end the threat.
Warrenton tied the game up in the bottom of the sixth. Forgacs led off with an infield single. Ben Pittman followed with a single, and Jordan Orndorff's sac bunt moved the runners to second and third. Brad Smoot hit a two-run single to tie the game at 4-4.
Smallwood went 5 1/3 innings, but said he didn't feel like he had his best stuff.
Winchester's Daniel Nawrocki came in to relieve Smallwood and went the rest of the way. Nawrocki is usually a starter, but said he's recently been used as a reliever and he's grown to like it.
"It's half good, half bad. Coming in like that is probably the most exciting thing as a pitcher," Nawrocki said of coming on in relief. "At the same time there's a little bit of pressure. It's more exciting to be a reliever -- when you come into close games like that.
"I felt really good out there. I felt like I was throwing harder than I usually do. And it made it exciting since it was a close game."
Warrenton is still alive in the double-elimination tournament. Warrenton had only five hits in the loss to Winchester, led by two from Pittman.
Winchester had 13 hits, led by Loudan, Unger and Smallwood with two hits each. Winchester will now play the winner of the Manassas Post 158 and Stafford Americans 290 today at Stafford at 7:30 p.m.
Smallwood said Winchester, the top-seed, won't take anyone lightly in the tournament.
"Manassas, they're a good team," Smallwood said. "Stafford's a good team. Everybody's going to be good now coming into the district tournament. It seems like everybody just loads up for the tournament."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org