Wildcats jump on Falcons early

Central shortstop Jared Rice watches this throw from catcher Tristan Rau take a bad hop as Warren County's Joseph Rutherford slides safely into second base on a first-inning steal during Tuesday night's baseball game at Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Warren County put it all together on the baseball field Tuesday night against Central.

The Wildcats erupted for seven runs in the first three innings against the Falcons and got a solid starting pitching performance from junior left-hander Joseph Rutherford as Warren County rolled to a 9-3 Bull Run District victory on the road.

“Best we’ve executed offensively. We were hitting behind the runners, we laid down some good bunts, ran the bases really well,” Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said.

“That’s probably our best effort defensively and offensively and pitching that we’ve put together all year. A lot of times we have one or two phases going, but I was real pleased.”

Warren County (5-4, 5-4 Bull Run) jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the third inning, providing plenty of run support for Rutherford. Though the lefty was more erratic than usual, according to Mathews, Rutherford allowed only three earned runs on six hits and two walks while striking out a career-high 11 batters in six innings pitched.

Central shortstop Zachary Hamman stretches in an attempt to knock down this ground ball during third-inning action Tuesday night against Warren County in Woodstock. Hamman couldn't get in front of the ball quick enough as it passed through the infield for a hit. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I really located my curveball the best,” said Rutherford, who improved to 2-1 with the win. “My fastball wasn’t really there most of the night. I was just really working hard every pitch trying to throw strikes.”

Central (3-7, 2-5) starting pitcher Zach Hamman didn’t have the same fortune, as he lasted only 1 2/3 innings while getting battered for six runs. Only two of those runs were earned as the Falcons’ defense committed four errors in the first two innings and eight total in the loss.

The Wildcats jumped on Hamman quickly, as back-to-back walks to open the top of the first inning set up a run-scoring opportunity for No. 3 hitter Eric Baker. The senior gave Warren County a 1-0 lead with an RBI single up the middle, one of three RBI hits for Baker in the game’s first three innings.

“The last game against them I wasn’t really seeing the ball too well, wasn’t getting my foot down early enough,” said Baker, who finished 3-for-4 with a double, three RBIs, a walk, a stolen base and two runs scored. “This game I just felt like I was seeing the ball. I had better plate vision. I hit the ball out front. I was able to pull the ball for today, which I haven’t been able to do very often.”

Another Warren County run scored on a Central error, and an RBI fielder’s choice by Hunter Wines gave the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.

Central shortstop Zachary Hamman watches a late throw pass into the outfield on a successful steal by Warren County's Cameron Ford during third-inning action Tuesday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

Warren County scored three more runs in the top of the second inning, as Baker doubled home Rutherford and later scored on another Falcons error and Wines (2-for-4, double, two RBIs, stolen base) delivered an RBI double to left-center.

Baker’s RBI single to right field in the top of the third gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

Central answered back with three runs in the bottom of the third off Rutherford. Falcons No. 9 hitter Tristan Rau (3-for-3) started the rally with a single to right and came around to score on an RBI single by freshman Jared Rice. Junior Hank Hoover helped Central cut the deficit to four runs with a two-run single on a soft line drive to left field.

Rice, who came on in relief of Hamman in the second inning, pitched effectively over his four innings of work. The freshman gave up three runs (one earned) on five hits and two walks while striking out three. Warren County chased Rice from the game in the top of the sixth inning, as an error and a pinch-hit RBI double by Michael Burrola scored two more Wildcats runs.

“Jared did a good job. He’s been pretty consistent here,” Central coach Donn Foltz said. “And that was Zach’s first rough outing. You’re going to have that. We didn’t make some plays behind him early either. And Luke Estep did a good job the last two innings.

Warren County's Austin King lays down a successful bunt during first-inning baseball action against Central on Tuesday night in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“It just wasn’t a night to do a whole lot of things exemplary,” he added.

Junior Stephen Johnson pitched the seventh inning for Warren County and allowed a hit while striking out two.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com

Warren County's Rhett Tierney attempts to turn a double play ball as Central's Jared Rice is forced out at second base during first-inning action Tuesday night in Woodstock. Tierney couldn't complete the throw in time to first to get the extra out. Rich Cooley/Daily

Warren County's Joseph Rutherford returns to lead the Wildcats' pitching staff in his senior season. Rich Cooley/Daily file