By Tommy Keeler Jr.
WINCHESTER -- James Wood made a living off the bunting game on Thursday night against Sherando -- and it worked to perfection.
The Colonels used some small ball to score the majority of their runs in a 9-5 Northwestern District softball victory over Sherando.
"We've been working on our bunting game a lot this year," James Wood coach Ted McDaniel said. "We have some fast people and fast people put pressure on the defense. One little bobble and we're on safe.
"If it don't work you look like a dummy, but when it does look you look smart."
The Warriors had some trouble handling some of the bunts, which helped James Wood immensely.
Sherando took the early lead with a run in the top of the first. Junior Michaela Carper doubled off James Wood pitcher Taylor Rizzari, and Carly Nixon followed with an RBI double to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead.
A bunt by Taylor Woolsey led to a two-base error, and then Alyssa Brown followed with a bunt single. A sacrifice fly by Kierstyn Peacoe tied the game at 1-1.
"We've got some girls at the top of the lineup that bunt really well," McDaniel said. "They also have great speed. Combine those two and you get people on base."
The Colonels (5-10, 4-5 Northwestern) took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second. One-out, back-to-back singles by Kayla Seal and Courteney Harper led to a run on a Sherando error.
Sherando (6-6, 4-4 Northwestern) would take the lead for the last time in the top of the third. Carper drew a walk and stole second. She eventually scored on a groundout by Jessy Shipman. Heidi Brown singled and stole second. An RBI single by Katie Manson gave the Warriors a 3-2 edge.
The Colonels came right back with a run in the bottom of the third on an infield single by Hayley Whitacre.
James Wood took control of the game with a three-run fourth inning. Harper led off with a single, and Caitlyn Hickey drew a walk from Sherando pitcher Heidi Brown. With one out, a two-base error gave James Wood a 4-3 lead.
A wild pitch on an intentional walk to Peacoe scored another James Wood run. Another run scored when Peacoe stole second, and Alyssa Brown stole home on the throw to second.
"Their offense came at us and kind of stunned us early on and they never let up the pressure. They were relentless," Sherando coach Clarence Smith said. "They were very aggressive on the base paths. They took the game to our defense. That's a testament to their offense."
Sherando scored a run in the top of the fifth to cut the lead to 6-4, but the Colonels answered with another run aided by a bunt single.
The Warriors had a great opportunity in the top of the sixth. Alison Bauer drew a one-out walk, and back-to-back singles by Sami Swecker and Maryssa Walker loaded the bases. Carper's sacrifice fly cut the lead to 7-5. Nixon followed with what looked like might be a single, but runner's interference was called on the play after a collision at shortstop to end the inning.
"I think we put runners on base every inning but one, and most of those innings we had runners in scoring position -- a lot of times multiple runners," Smith said. "We couldn't get that big hit. That's the name of the game. Often that's the difference between wins and losses."
The Colonels added two more runs, aided by another bunt single and two Sherando errors.
Harper led the Colonels with three hits and an RBI. The Colonels lost the two previous meetings between the teams, and McDaniel said it was a big win for his team.
"We were really determined we were going to win tonight," McDaniel said. "This is our last game with Sherando, especially for the seniors. We can't play Sherando again unless we both get to the conference  championship game.
"I'm really happy for the seniors. They talked about how they wanted to win this game. I'm really proud of them."
Smith said he was very proud of Heidi Brown, who only allowed eight hits in the loss.
"This might have been Heidi's best game against like, upper competition," Smith said. "Heidi gave us a chance to win tonight. She competed, she gave us chances to win. She even helped own cause offensively. I thought she played a whale of a game. We just didn't give her support in those key moments when we needed to."
Heidi Brown and Carper each had two hits to lead the Warriors, who also had eight hits as a team. Sherando committed six errors. The Warriors host Skyline today.
"I expect us to bounce back tomorrow," Smith said. "We have real good team chemistry. I think we'll come out tomorrow, and I think we'll give them a good game. I think we'll be competitive tomorrow. We still have time to get this thing rolling before we go into that conference  tournament. Hopefully we'll be playing our best softball at that time, because we're certainly not doing it now."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd