Warriors get knockout of Judges

Sherando's Michael White rounds second base after he drove in three runs during fifth-inning action against Handley on Thursday night in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY — Sometimes, the difference between a good night and a special outing is just one strike.

Such is what Sherando baseball’s starting pitcher Ty Michaud and his Warriors teammates learned Thursday night in a Northwestern District showdown against Handley.

The Warriors (7-9 overall, 4-2 district and winners of three straight) breezed by rival Handley on their diamond, 14-4, in a five-inning game shortened by the mercy rule. But Michaud, who took the win, was just a pitch away from shutting out the Judges (0-6 district, 2-15 overall). Then the home team sprung what turned out to be a couple meaningless leaks.

As it was, the senior right-hander, who has missed a start or two recently after a ball glanced off his arm, twirled a three-hitter in going the distance. He struck out 10, gave up just three earned runs, two bases on balls and he hit two Judges.

“I’ll tell you what [the four-run Handley fifth] taught us,” said Sherando coach Pepper Martin. “It taught us that we have a lot of athletes who play baseball, but who are not necessarily baseball players. We learned that we weren’t going to win as easily as we thought we were.

Handley's Dylan Kolb steals home on a passed ball as Sherando pitcher Ty Michaud awaits the throw from catcher Connor Stevenson during the fifth inning at Stephens City on Thursday night. Rich Cooley/Daily

“We don’t watch baseball like we used to. We practiced that game situation, but it’s like run-downs. You see that maybe three or four times a year, so you work on it, but probably not as much as you would on other things.”

Sherando, which swept district opponent Handley this year by a total of 31-5, was looking for an even shorter game (called if the home team leads by eight or more runs after 4 1/2 innings).

Michaud, who Martin said probably worked a little too quickly in the upper half of the fifth, had loaded the bases as the Judges scratched out a hit to lead off the fifth inning, Jimmy Vitola got on base via a hit-by-pitch and then Michaud put the Judges’ Bradon Collingwood on with a walk.

“Ty works fast anyway, but with that lead, he probably worked a little faster than he should,” said Martin.

Michaud struck out two opponents, and so, all the Warriors needed was one more out. After he worked the count to 2-2 on Handley leadoff hitter Dylan Kolb, Michaud walked him and in came the Judges’ first run of the night.

Sherando's Adam Whitacre, left, congratulates teammate Quentin Rohrbaugh after he scored during the fourth inning during their game against Handley on Thursday night in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

Before the half-inning was over, Michaud surrendered four runs, two hits, two walks and two hit batsmen, while the Warriors failed to support him in the field. They committed an error and a passed ball before Michaud finally got Handley starter and loser Cole Talton on a ground ball.

Otherwise, Sherando attacked Handley much as it had against Loudoun County and cross-Frederick County arch-rival James Wood in ringing up two straight previous wins.

Michaud worked deliberately across four innings, when he allowed no earned runs and gave up only an infield hit to the Judges.

The starter worked his pitches around the edges of the strike zone and showed good command on his fastball, a devastating slider and his curve.

Meanwhile the Warriors were getting it done at the plate. They scored two runs on three hits in the second inning. Then, in the third, they exploded for eight runs on four hits and two Handley errors.

Sherando pitcher Ty Michaud helps Handley's Cole Talton to his feet after Michaud threw a pitch that struck Talton's helmet during the fifth inning Thursday night in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

In that frame, Martin’s team sent nine batters to the plate.

At that point, it was 10-0. Then Handley forced Sherando to go another half inning before the game was called. The Warriorss put another run on the board in the home half of the fourth to go up 11-4. Three more in the fifth ended it.

Three Judges pitchers allowed the Warriors’ nine hits. The trio walked seven, threw five wild pitches and hit two Sherando batters

Sherando’s Pearce Bucher and Matt Dansbach each went 2-for-3 at the plate. Bucher, the cleanup hitter, scored two runs and drove in a pair more. Dansbach had a double, scored a run and pushed another across with an RBI.

Meanwhile, Sherando’s Frank Ritter III was 2-for-3 with four RBIs.

Sherando's Adam Whitacre watches action from inside the dugout during a game Thursday night against Handley. Rich Cooley/Daily