Wildcats top Mustangs

FRONT ROYAL — Warren County pitching coach Jon Nicholson wants all his hurlers throwing three pitches – fastball, curve and change-of-pace.

The key, says Nicholson, is for his starters to use their best pitch, whatever it may be, and then work in the others.

Friday night, starter Rhett Tierney did just that, using his off-speed throws to keep George Mason off-balance and achieve a 7-1 Bull Run Conference victory.

Tierney started and allowed six hits, striking out seven, before giving way to closer Steve Johnson in the seventh inning.

The victory for the 4-0, 1-0 Wildcats was their fourth consecutive. It is the Wildcats best start in recent memory – certainly none of the current players have begun this way.

“Coach Nicholson wants all our starters to learn to throw three pitches,” said catcher Robert Rutherford.

“But not all at once,” Nicholson said. “The idea is to start off with what you like, then work the other pitches in.”

Likewise, head coach Michael Minch’s aim is to use as many players off his roster as is possible. Friday at Bing Crosby Stadium, 12 of them got in. Eight Wildcats hit safely for at least a single.

“Our idea is to get each of our players ready to play. We like to put runners on the bases and then be aggressive from there, hoping our guys have good at-bats and see the ball,” Minch said.

Robert Rutherford, whose twin Joseph is an integral part of the team as pitching ace and centerfielder, clubbed two hits, scored a run and drove one in; sophomore Hunter Wines was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI and Johnson scored two runs, while Josh France was 2-for-4 with a run batted in.

So far this year, counting the Mustangs (2-3), the Wildcats have scored 36 runs in four games.

George Mason, which knocked off Warren County in last year’s opening game, got ahead early but then the Warren bats and pitching caught up

Devin Thomas singled to center, moved to second on a sacrifice and then scored on a fielder’s choice by Justin Trainer for a 1-0 Mustang lead.

Warren County broke back in the bottom of the third when the ‘Cats batted around

Joseph Rutherford started the inning off by reaching on an error, one of five committed by the Mustangs. A wild throw from the GM infield moved Rutherford to second. He moved to third on a ground out by Cam Ford, but Robert Rutherford drove his brother home on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, Johnson laced a single into the centerfield power alley. Tierney moved Johnson to second on a bunt and then France brought home Johnson with a single over the first baseman’s head.

The Wildcats carried a 3-1 lead into the top of the fourth.

Joseph Rutherford got on again via error in the bottom of the fourth. With two outs, Wines lined a base hit over first base and Rutherford took home via another miscue for a 4-1 lead

After a double by George Mason’s Noah Anderson in the top of the fifth, Tierney retired the side. He gave up just a walk in the sixth before coming out in favor of Johnson

Meanwhile in the bottom of the inning, Joseph Rutherford laced a single to center. With two outs, Wines ripped a ball into centerfield for a single. Joseph Rutherford took second. Johnson’s walk loaded the bases. Then two consecutive errors on balls hit by Tierney and France brought home Rutherford with his third run scored, Wines and Johnson for the 7-1 romp.

“This was our fourth game so it was time we got Rhett out there to see what he had,” said Minch. “We haven’t used him much but we thought we’d get him out there and give him a look.”