Rutherford shuts down Hawks

Warren County shortstop Cameron Ford tries to recover from a high throw from catcher Robert Rutherford as Skyline's Gavin Kandrick steals second base during the first inning of Wednesday night's game at Bing Crosby Stadium. Kandrick was safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County’s baseball team received its second shutdown performance on the mound in as many days in Wednesday’s game against cross-town rival Skyline.

A day after senior Josh France tossed a five-inning no-hitter in a blowout win over Handley, fellow senior and Wildcat ace Joseph Rutherford limited Skyline to one hit over six innings Wednesday night in a 7-2 Conference 28 victory at Bing Crosby Stadium.

“What stands out to me is not only on the field but off the field,” Warren County head coach Michael Minch said of Rutherford. “He’s a great kid … does great in the classroom and that definitely shows on the field. At times he had his curveball, at times he didn’t but he competed his butt off, man. That’s what he does, he finds a way to get it done and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”

In addition to the one hit allowed, Rutherford issued two walks while striking out nine, seven of which came in the first three innings. The left-hander, who didn’t allow a run, was pulled after the sixth inning with his pitch count sitting at 96.

“For periods of the game, I had a pretty good curveball going. Kind of lost it a couple times but came back with it,” Rutherford said. “I just threw a lot of strikes and my defense played good. You know, when we score seven runs, that’s really good for a pitcher.”

Skyline's Colin Rankin gets under an infield fly ball for an out while Warren County's Joseph Rutherford looks on from second base during first inning action Wednesday night at Bing Crosby Stadium. Rich Cooley/Daily

Though Rutherford said he was hit and miss with his curveball, seven of his nine strikeouts came on the breaking ball. He struck out a batter with a curveball immediately after allowing a runner to reach base on three different occasions, and he used the breaking ball to get back-to-back strikeouts to strand two Skyline runners in scoring position in the second inning.

“It seemed like I always threw a good one when I needed it,” Rutherford said.

Warren County (3-0, 1-0 Conference 28) scored seven unanswered runs in the victory before the Hawks (1-4, 0-3) finally got on the board with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning.

The Wildcats, playing as the home team, put a run on the board against Skyline starter Brett Ritter in the first inning. Rutherford helped his own cause with a leadoff double to left-center, and he later came home on Hunter Wines’ two-out RBI single on a grounder into left field.

Warren County senior Stephen Johnson (two runs scored) started a three-run second inning with a double to left, and he scored on a Hawks throwing error to home plate on Rutherford’s grounder with the bases loaded. Cam Ford followed with an RBI on a sacrifice fly and Daniel Spangler – who reached on a bunt single with one out – scored on a delayed steal of home as Rutherford drew a throw to second base on his own steal attempt.

Warren County's Joseph Rutherford fires a pitch during Wedensday night's game against Skyline at Bing Crosby Stadium. Rich Cooley/Daily

Another sacrifice fly by Ford in the fourth inning gave the Wildcats a 5-0 lead, and James Bussells pushed that advantage to seven runs with a two-RBI pinch-hit single in the fifth.

“Definitely our philosophy is just applying as much pressure as we can,” said Minch, whose team needed just six hits to score its seven runs. “A lot of good situational hitting – some sac flies, putting the balls in play. Nothing really stood out but it was a good team effort situationally.”

Skyline, whose lone hit against Rutherford came on Matt Hartzell’s leadoff double in the top of the fourth inning, finally found some success at the plate against Warren County reliever Jacob Dodson in the seventh. Hawks junior Aaron Tasker doubled to left-center with one out, and back-to-back errors loaded the bases with two away. Gavin Kandrick lined a two-run single into center to pull Skyline within 7-2 and force Minch to hand the ball over to Ford on the mound.

The Warren County junior dealt a walk to reload the bases before inducing a pop out to end the game.

Skyline, which lost its fourth straight game, finished with just three hits and largely failed to capitalize on five Warren County errors. The Hawks stranded eight baserunners in the loss, including three in scoring position in the first two innings.

Warren County's Joshua France slides safely into home as Skyline catcher Gavin Kandrick loses sight of the ball during the second inning of Wednesday night's game. Rich Cooley/Daily

Hawks coach Jay Barnes praised Rutherford’s performance after the game.

“We just got outplayed tonight,” Barnes said.

“We didn’t put the ball in play. That hurt. We had a lot of strikeouts early with runners on base and if you don’t put it in play and move them around the bases it’s hard to score runs.”

Ritter allowed four hits, two walks and a hit batter against four strikeouts in his four innings of work on the mound for Skyline before being pulled due to a high pitch count. Only one of his five runs allowed was earned.

Trenton Little, a sophomore, didn’t allow a baserunner in his lone inning of action in the sixth.

Skyline's Brett Ritter fires a pitch during Wednesday night's game against Warren County. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I thought (Ritter) battled through, especially the second inning (which) was a tough one,” Barnes said. “He battled through that inning and kept making pitches, gave us a chance to get outs.”

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

Warren County catcher Robert Rutherford throws out Skyline's Joey Hugo in the second inning Wednesday evening at Bing Crosby Stadium. Rich Cooley/Daily