Strong start lifts Warren County

Cam Ford

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County’s bats got off to a quick start against James Wood on Monday and that was all it needed.

The Wildcats held off a James Wood rally for an 8-4 non-district baseball victory at Bing Crosby Stadium.

“The last couple games we’ve been off to a slow start, so we really got on them — early and often getting on the bases, making something happen,” Warren County coach Michael Minch said. “Good things are going to happen if you compete in the batters box. We got their starter out in the second inning. Really very happy offensively the first two innings with our guys. They had a great approach and did a great job.”

The Wildcats scored seven runs in the first two innings. With two outs, Warren County’s Cam Ford got things started in the bottom of the first with a single. Ford stole second and went to third on a throwing error. Robert Rutherford was hit by a pitch from James Wood starting pitcher Joel Smith.

Warren County’s Stephen Johnson followed with a two-run single to give Warren County a 2-0 lead.

“I think we played great,” Ford said. “We put pressure on them at the beginning. … In batting practice before the game we knew what we had to do. We knew this was a good team, so we really worked on what we had to do, where we had to put the ball. I think our team came through.”

Johnson stole second and moved to third on a throwing error. He then scored on an error to give Warren County a 3-0 edge.

In the bottom of the second, Warren County’s Daniel Spangler reached on an error with one out. Warren County’s Joseph Rutherford singled. Spangler and Joseph Rutherford moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt by Joshua France. That set up a two-run single by Ford to give the Wildcats a 5-0 lead.

“There were two outs, I just wanted to get Joe going. I knew he had speed on the bases,” Ford said. “I just had to get him in there.”

Robert Rutherford followed with an RBI triple off the left-field wall for a 6-0 lead. Robert Rutherford then scored on a balk by James Wood relief pitcher Elijah Smith for a 7-0 advantage.

Johnson looked sharp on the mound for the first two innings. He allowed only one hit, and struck out two, but got into trouble in the top of the third.

James Wood’s Colby Monroe led off the inning with a single. With one out, James Wood’s Ben Russo doubled down the left-field line. An RBI groundout by Cameron Cross scored Monroe. Tyler Mathews followed with an RBI single to cut the led to 7-2.

Cody Polk then drilled a two-run homer to cut the lead to 7-4.

“He was missing his spots, leaving the ball over the middle of the plate and against a good hitting team you can’t do that,”” Minch said of Johnson. “They’ll definitely make you pay for it. His velocity wasn’t there today. Overall, he was just missing his spots. He couldn’t locate his change-up.”

In the bottom of the fifth the Wildcats were able to score another run. Johnson drew a walk from Smith with one out. Warren County’s Hunter Wines reached on an error, and James Bussells followed with an RBI single for an 8-4 lead.

That was more than enough for Warren County reliever Jacob Dodson. The sophomore threw the last four innings and allowed only two hits with two strikeouts.

“He came in and did a great job for us,” Minch said.

The Colonels were led by Russo, who went 4-for-4 at the plate.

Ford led the Wildcats with two singles, a triple and two RBIs. Johnson had two hits for Warren County.

The Wildcats are now 5-0 on the season, and Ford said the team knows it still has a lot of work left to do.

“It’s a great feeling. One-fourth of the way into our season, but we know we got to keep getting better,” Ford said. “There’s some hard teams out there — this is one of them. We just accepted the challenge and went with it.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com