Wildcats’ France two-hits Falcons

WOODSTOCK – Warren County High School senior Josh France said his throwing arm felt a little better than usual Friday night. That was good news for the Wildcats – not so much for Central.

France tossed a complete game while limiting the Falcons to just two hits as the Wildcats rolled to a 7-0 Bull Run District baseball victory on the road, their third straight win.

“My arm felt live today. A lot of velocity,” France said. “And my curveball was working, fastball up – everything was good today.

“You’ve gotta go out there with a dominant mindset. You’ve gotta go out there like you’re not gonna let anybody on base every inning.”

The right-hander’s fastball proved particularly troublesome for Central’s hitters, as five of his nine strikeouts came as a result of the Falcons chasing high fastballs out of the zone. France, who tossed a five-inning no hitter against Handley earlier this season, also got a strikeout looking on a fastball that skimmed the top of the strike zone on Friday night.

“I love that pitch. It works,” said France, who dealt just one walk – which came with two outs in the seventh inning – and hit a batter in his seven innings of work. “It’s great, and it’s so easy.”

Warren County (8-2, 3-2 Bull Run) quickly provided run support for France with a pair of runs off Central (4-7, 2-2) starter Jared Rice in the top of the first inning. Joseph Rutherford led off the game with a walk, stole second and eventually scored on a Central error, and cleanup batter Stephen Johnson crushed an RBI double off the base of the fence in left later in the inning to put the Wildcats up 2-0.

“First at-bat I’m just looking fastball and react to curveball,” said Johnson, who also scored a run in the win. “He just gave me one belt high and I just kind of got my hands to it and it just kept on going. It’s just one of those things where you just swing it and it seems to go sometimes.”

Johnson’s double was the first of eight hits by eight different players for the Wildcats in the game. Three of those hits went for extra bases.

“We had a pretty good attack. We were also confident in there,” Johnson said. “We’ve just been hitting the weight room all season. … I’m not swinging for the fence. I mean I’m just swinging, it just comes, I guess. But we’re just working on getting the job done. Hit and run, we’re just executing really well on offense.”

Rice settled in after the first inning and blanked Warren County until Rutherford’s RBI triple in the fifth inning that scored Rhett Tierney, who reached on a one-out single.

The Wildcats blew the game open with three runs in the sixth inning to chase Rice from the game. Johnson drew a leadoff walk and scored on James Bussell’s line drive double down the left-field line, and a double steal later in the sixth led to a pair of Central errors and two more runs to put Warren County up 6-0.

“(Rice was) keeping us off-balance there in the middle innings, just starting us off with the breaking ball. We didn’t let it get to us, didn’t let it ruin our at-bats,” Wildcats coach Michael Minch said. “We had great approaches all night, guys using the whole field, putting pressure on the defense, running around the bases. I mean that’s Wildcat baseball. That’s something we like to see as a coaching staff.”

Warren County added its final run in the top of the seventh inning against Falcons reliever Gus Wightman. Robert Rutherford reached on a one-out single, stole second and scored on Cam Ford’s groundball single into right.

Jordon Hosaflook tallied Central’s first hit in the second inning with a line drive up the middle. The Falcons wouldn’t get another until Hank Hoover’s line drive into left put two on with two outs in the sixth before France escaped trouble.

Rice pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed six runs (two earned) on six hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Wightman pitched the other 1 2/3 innings and allowed an earned run on two hits.

“Jared pitched well,” Falcons coach Donn Foltz said. “They got some big hits. We’ve just gotten so we’re giving up some runs early in a game and then we have to catch up. That’s the way it’s been.”

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