Post 21’s offense erupts to open tourney

STEPHENS CITY – The bats finally broke out for Winchester Post 21 on Wednesday night.

Hosting the No. 8 Stafford Post 290 Nationals in the first round of the American Legion District 16 baseball tournament at Sherando High School, top-seeded Post 21 erupted for 18 hits en route to a comfortable 11-4 victory.

Post 21 will play No. 4 Leesburg Post 34 tonight at 7 p.m. All remaining games in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament will be played at Sherando High School.

“It’s a big win,” said Winchester’s Chase Smallwood, who went 3-for-5 with three RBI singles. “The first one’s always a big win and we made a statement tonight, showing that we’re not goofing around anymore.

“We were able to get by and we did well. We hit the ball well all night, got key hits, and two-out hits too.”

Post 21 (15-3) needed little time to get the offense going against Stafford starting pitcher Nick Pacheco. Winchester started the bottom of the first inning with three consecutive singles, including Smallwood’s RBI hit on a grounder to right field that plated Jordon Turner for the game’s first run.

Winchester finished the first inning with six singles, including RBI hits from 2015 Sherando graduate Connor Stevenson (2-for-3, two walks) and Joel Smith (3-for-4, three infield singles).

“We were just aggressive,” said Ty Michaud, another 2015 Sherando graduate who went 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. “We knew just jump on top, get a good lead [and] pitching should be alright.”

Post 21 roughed up Pacheco for three more runs in the second inning to chase the left-hander from the mound after just 1 1/3 innings. Smallwood and Alex Dobry (RBI triple) drove in runs for Winchester in the frame, and Dobry later scored on a balk by Stafford reliever Dylan Wolff.

Three more runs in the fourth inning – two on a single by Cohen Kerns and another on a sacrifice fly by Smith – and two more in the fifth inning on RBIs by Smallwood and Myles McPartland gave Post 21 a comfortable 11-2 lead.

Post 21 coach Anthony Hargrove said Winchester had struggled at the plate for most of the season prior to Wednesday’s outburst and he was unsure how the team would react to playing the last-place team in the tournament’s opening round.

“I wish I knew what that formula was, I would push that button every night,” Hargrove said. ” … I was concerned about their mindset. I was concerned about the offense. We’ve been getting great defense and great pitching all year. I’ve been extremely pleased with that part of the game.”

Winchester’s early 9-0 lead after four innings prompted Hargrove to turn to his “plan B” in regards to Post 21’s pitching. Millbrook grad Michael Tinsman started the game and cruised through four scoreless innings and allowed five hits on only 50 pitches, but Hargrove opted to turn to a committee approach over the final five innings with the game well in hand.

Alex Dobry, who will start on the mound tonight, Hargrove said, pitched two innings and surrendered two earned runs in the fifth inning. Smallwood pitched two hitless innings while striking out two and Raymond Reigle – who surrendered RBIs to Cody Harrell (single) and Pacheco (bases-loaded walk) — pitched the ninth inning.

None of Winchester’s three relievers threw more than 32 pitches.

“The guys took about 30 pitches, so I counted that as a bullpen,” Hargrove said.

No. 3 Front Royal Post 53, which fell to Remington Post 247 in extra innings in its first-round game Tuesday, will play Manassas Post 158 in an elimination game today at 1 p.m.

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