By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Adam Whitacre has a new role for Sherando this season, and it's one that he's starting to adjust to and benefiting the Warriors greatly.
Whitacre has moved into the leadoff spot in the lineup, and last week he was able to kick-start Sherando's offense and help them to two big wins. Last year Whitacre hit in the No. 2 spot for the Warriors.
"A leadoff hitter has a lot of responsibility and he's adapted well to it," Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. "This year, based on how hard we were hit by graduation, we needed to find a leadoff hitter. And just as Taylor Loudan did last year for us, he's made the adjustments to lead off."
Whitacre went 4-for-6 at the plate last week in two five-inning victories (over Skyline and Handley) with four RBIs and six runs scored. He also threw a one-hitter in the Warriors' 13-0 win over Skyline, which helped earn him The Northern Virginia Daily's Male Athlete of the Week for April 7-13.
Martin said he felt Whitacre and a few of the other veteran players from last year's Group AA state championship squad were putting too much pressure on themselves early in the season. In the last few games, Whitacre has come to life at the plate, including a double in his first at-bat in the last two games.
"He's starting to catch fire a little bit at the plate," Martin said. "Adam started a little slowly, but now he's getting in his comfort zone and he's not trying to do too much."
Whitacre said he feels confident about the team if he can get on base to start the game and get things started.
"I feel like if I get on base, first, it will produce a rally," Whitacre said. "And that will help the team get going on offense -- that's my role."
The junior was expected to be one of the top pitchers going into the season, but tendonitis has shut down Reid Entsminger, leaving even more on Whitacre's shoulders on the mound.
In the victory over Skyline, Whitacre was sharp. He struck out six, and allowed only a double in the first inning.
"The defense was behind me making plays. [Sherando catcher] Chase [Smallwood] was calling good pitches. I was just hitting my spots wherever he set up," Whitacre said. "In the bullpen, I was feeling my pitches and my off-speed was working real well, so I knew it was going to be a good night. Then my defense was making good plays, which just helped me out."
Martin said Whitacre has always had a good curveball, and been able to spot his fastball, but he's now getting comfortable with his changeup.
"His changeup is starting to really become one of his better pitches," Martin said. "He's worked at it, he's practiced it. Now he's become more comfortable with it and with comfort, comes confidence."
Whitacre is 1-0 on the season, but he is the pitcher of record in Sherando's suspended game with Washington (W.Va.), in which the Warriors lead 6-3.
Sherando started the season off slowly, but with the two victories last week Whitacre said he believes the team has turned a corner.
"It was a big week, we were struggling a little bit," Whitacre said. "We play James Wood and Millbrook next week. We got a lot of momentum going into those games, to get us going throughout the rest of the season."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd