Wildcats fall flat in blowout loss to Dragons

Warren County's shortstop Cameron Ford prepares to catch a throw on a steal attempt by William Monroe's R.J. Payne after a ball got past catcher Robert Rutherford during third inning action at Bing Crosby Stadium Tuesday night. Payne was safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Warren County’s baseball team wasn’t sharp in many phases against visiting William Monroe on Tuesday night.

The Wildcats saw a strong start from senior right-hander Josh France fizzle out in the fourth inning, while they mustered just two hits off Monroe starter Cody Spencer and committed five errors in the field in a 12-1 loss in Bull Run District/Conference 28 action at Bing Crosby Stadium. The game ended in six innings due to the mercy rule.

“You’ve gotta execute against good teams because they’ll definitely make you pay for it,” Wildcats head coach Mike Minch said. “Josh competed. He had a little bit of control issues there in the fourth inning and walked a kid, a hit-by-pitch, and then they started putting the ball in play. And we just couldn’t execute on the defensive side of the ball.”

France looked nearly untouchable in the game’s first three innings aside from a hiccup in the top of the first, which saw the right-hander plunk Anthony Pritchett, who eventually came around to score on a Warren County (5-1, 1-1 Bull Run) error during a pickoff attempt at first base. France struck out five batters in a row at one point and had six strikeouts through the first three innings.

“Their guy was kind of herky and jerky and had a really good little slider or a hard curveball and kept us off-balance there at the start,” Monroe head coach Mike Maynard said. “I think when we saw him that first time (through the order) we kind of helped out a little bit.”

Warren County pitcher Joshua France delivers a pitch to a William Monroe batter. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Dragons (6-2, 2-0), who finished with 10 hits in the win, broke out at the plate with three runs in the fourth inning to take a 4-0 lead. R.J. Payne (2-for-4) led off the frame with a groundball single that skipped just under the glove of Wildcats first baseman Hunter Wines, and Hunter Foster (4-for-4, two RBIs) followed with a looping single to left-center.

A walk loaded the bases and Spencer cleared them one out later with a three-run triple down the right-field line.

“That kind of gave us some momentum,” Maynard said.

William Monroe padded its lead with six more runs in the fifth inning. Three of those came on a two-run single by Foster and an RBI hit by Jonathan Sexton, while the other half came on three Warren County errors in the frame as the Dragons took a 10-1 lead.

“Definitely not Wildcat baseball but we’ll get back to work tomorrow,” Minch said. “I definitely think this was a good test for us. We know what we need to do to compete with quality teams like that and giving them extra outs is not the recipe.”

Warren County's Joseph Rutherford squeezes by William Monroe's third baseman Jonathan Foster after Foster was forced off the base to catch the throw on a steal attempt during first inning action. Rich Cooley/Daily

France lasted four-plus innings and allowed six runs (five earned) on four hits, two walks, two hit batters and seven strikeouts.

Things weren’t much better at the plate for the Wildcats, who managed just a lone run off Spencer in the bottom of the fourth inning when France led off with a walk, moved to third on an error and scored on a passed ball.

Warren County put two runners in scoring position with no outs in the top of the first inning before a potential rally was stalled when France was doubled up at second base on a lineout. The Wildcats faced an identical situation in the fourth, only to have Spencer strike out their No. 4 and No. 5 hitters, Robert Rutherford and Stephen Johnson, before France scored with two outs.

Warren County stranded six base runners in the loss.

“Our approach at times I thought was pretty good, but then other times we just couldn’t execute,” Minch said. “And again with good teams you can’t leave runners in scoring position, especially when you’ve got the heart of your lineup coming up. But that’s something we pride ourselves on as well, so really … we got beat at all three phases.”

Warren County shortstop Cameron Ford dives to knock down this hit in the infield during first inning action against William Monroe. Rich Cooley/Daily

Spencer, who threw a perfect game in his first start of the season, according to Maynard, tossed five innings on Tuesday while allowing an unearned run on two hits, four walks and six strikeouts. Maynard said Spencer’s four walks were his first in four starts this spring.

The Dragons added two more runs in the sixth inning to put the mercy rule into effect.

Joseph Rutherford reached base three times for the Wildcats on a single and two walks, while Rhett Tierney picked up Warren County’s other hit with a single in the fifth.

“They’re a good team,” Maynard said of Warren County. “We’re gonna battle them two more times. We’ll see them in the conference tournament and we know that. … Either team can win. The score was very not indicative – both of these teams are really close.”

Warren County returns to action Friday against Strasburg. That game has been moved from Strasburg to Bing Crosby Stadium and will be played at 7 p.m.

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

Warren County's shortstop Cameron Ford prepares to put a late tag on William Monroe's Anthony Pritchett as he successfully steals second base during first inning action on April 5. Ford played a big role in Warren County's success in football, basketball and baseball this season. Rich Cooley/Daily file