Warren pitcher throws two-hit shutout

Joseph Rutherford

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County starting pitcher Joseph Rutherford walked the first batter he faced during Monday night’s baseball game against cross-town rival Skyline at Bing Crosby Stadium. The Hawks didn’t mount much more offense against the junior left-hander after that.

Rutherford went the distance for the Wildcats and limited Skyline to only two hits, and RBIs by Rutherford and senior Eric Baker in the fifth inning made the difference on the scoreboard as Warren County picked up a 2-0 Conference 28 victory.

“Joseph Rutherford, how about that? Story of the game,” Wildcats coach Vernon Mathews said. “Not unexpected. If you look at his stats this year, he probably has the best pitching stats on the team. I thought his curveball was pretty devastating tonight. Once he was able to establish that, we were able to start spotting fastballs. I thought he really kept them off balance all night.”

Rutherford (2-1), who entered Monday’s game with a 1.47 earned run average, used that curveball to help generate 10 strikeouts in the complete-game shutout. He walked Skyline sophomore Gavin Kandrick to start the top of the first inning, but Kandrick was thrown out trying to steal second in the next at-bat by Rutherford’s battery-mate and twin brother, Robert.

After surrendering a single in the second inning, Joseph Rutherford retired 15 straight batters before allowing his second hit with one out in the top of the seventh.

“That throw-out in the first inning was huge,” Joseph Rutherford said. “If he steals that, it’s runner on second with no outs in the first inning and a run in the first inning for them could’ve been big.

“I just felt great tonight. My defense made plays behind me. After that first walk I felt like I settled in, threw a lot of strikes.”

Joseph Rutherford’s ability to mix his pitches effectively was enough to cool down the Hawks (7-7), who saw their three-game win streak snapped with the loss. Skyline had outscored its opponents 43-4 during that streak, but couldn’t replicate that same success Monday.

Skyline’s first hit came on a bloop single down the left-field line by Joe Pingley with one out in the second inning, and Hunter Partlowe notched the Hawks’ second hit with a single on a slow roller up the middle in the seventh. Both runners were stranded at second base.

“I thought we definitely should’ve hit better,” Hawks coach Jay Barnes said. “[Rutherford] pitched really well, but definitely at a point in time you’ve got to make changes and you’ve got to make adjustments. We didn’t make adjustments tonight and he was able to get us out using the same approach all night long.

“We struggle [against curveballs] and it’s an approach thing for us. We have a hard time adjusting and hitting the curveball, staying tall and hitting the curveball back the other way. It’s something we struggle with and we’ve been working on it all year.”

Skyline got a strong pitching performance of its own from senior right-hander Tyler Ritenour, who pitched all six innings and allowed two earned runs on four hits, three walks and two strikeouts.

“That was probably one of Tyler’s best outings all year,” Barnes said. “I think he was under 80 pitches through six innings, so pitch count-wise that was definitely his best outing all year long.

“He was ahead in the count more. He was in advantage counts more often and he wasn’t having to battle back from two-ball, three-ball counts.”

Warren County (9-5) broke through for the game’s only runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Wildcats senior Blake Cockrell started the inning with an infield single that took a bad hop off the right shoulder of Ritenour on the mound, and a walk by Rhett Tierney put two on with no outs before sophomore No. 9 hitter Cameron Ford moved both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.

“Number one, we got down the bunt,” Mathews said. “We got the runners over, so that was critical.”

Joseph Rutherford followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center field to plate the game’s first run, and Baker delivered an RBI single up the middle with two outs to extend Warren County’s lead to 2-0.

“Tyler threw a good game,” Joseph Rutherford said, “we just got lucky enough to start putting the ball in play. Got some runners on, got some good situational hitting and got them in.”

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