By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- The odds are that Sherando High School's baseball team hasn't seen the last of its home field just yet.
With the postseason just around the corner with the Conference 21 tournament scheduled to open on Friday night, there was still the remote possibility on Tuesday night that the Warriors might be playing their last home game.
Throw in that it was Senior Night, and Sherando wasn't taking any chances of having less than a glowing final memory -- if it came to that -- of its home digs. With those same seniors, all eight in the starting lineup, the Warriors struck early and often for a 10-1 victory over rival Handley.
Sherando's seniors led the way, driving in all 10 runs and piling up a combined 12 hits in the victory.
"We definitely can hit like this all the time," said Sherando senior first baseman Jordan Clark, who collected a career-high three hits batting in the No. 9 hole. "We came out and we were swinging it well from the start."
Sherando (11-5) jumped on Handley starting pitcher Blaine Homan in the bottom of the first inning. Seniors Zach Henke and Chase Smallwood had back-to-back singles, and senior Reid Entsminger followed with an RBI double. One batter later, senior Rennie Marchi drove in another run with a sacrifice fly RBI.
Handley (3-12) answered with a run in the top of the second. Homan and Clifton Anders led off the frame with back-to-back singles off starting pitcher Smallwood, and one out later Tyler Paniagua's singled in a run. The Judges were taken out of that promising inning right after that when Cole Talton grounded into an odd 4-3-6 double play as Paniagua got nabbed trying to get back to second base.
The Warriors broke the game open in the bottom of the inning with five runs off five hits. Henke and Smallwood had consecutive sacrifice fly RBIs, then Rennie Marchi plated two more by roping a double to left. Senior Marcus Painter capped the rally with an RBI single.
Sherando coach Pepper Martin said Tuesday night's game was the first time all season that all eight Warriors seniors started together, although they've all seen time on the field.
"We've been rotating some people in and out of the lineup this year based on who the starting pitcher is that night," Martin said. "So we really mix it up a little bit."
Smallwood's RBI single chased Homan with one out in the bottom of the third, and Sherando senior Hayden Fox added to the hit parade with a two-run single off Judges reliever Braedon Collingwood.
Collingwood settled down after that, not allowing another run over the final 3 2/3 innings. Handley coach Patrick Wingfield said it was the best outing of the season for Collingwood, but it came too late for the Judges.
"They came out shooting balls in the gap and blooping balls over our heads, just anything the could do to get on base," Wingfield said. "We couldn't match that."
Smallwood left after three innings as the Warriors worked to conserve their pitching in the midst of a busy week. Fox threw a scoreless fourth inning, and Tyler Tinsman worked the final three innings in his first varsity pitching appearance. He allowed just one hit.
"He hasn't pitched for us at all this year," Martin said of Tinsman, a sophomore right-hander. "We've rotated him down to jvs to get him some innings. So him giving us three innings tonight helped us out a lot."
Homan finished with two hits to lead the Judges, who managed just hits in all.
Joining Clark with multiple hits were Smallwood, Fox and Rennie Marchi with two hits each. Sherando had 13 hits in all.
"It's Senior Night and there's a possibility it could be our last home game," Clark said. "It's good to come out of it with a win."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>