Warriors strike early, hold off Pioneers for big conference win

WINCHESTER – Sherando High School’s baseball teams had to rally from a three-run deficit in its first matchup with rival Millbrook last month. The Warriors needed no such magic in the rematch on Tuesday night.

Sherando roughed up Pioneers starting pitcher Ryan Kennedy for four runs in the top of the first inning, then rode a gritty pitching performance from senior right-hander Adam Miller to pick up a big 4-2 win on the road in Conference 21 West action.

Tuesday’s win, unlike the Warriors’ 4-3 victory over the Pioneers on April 11, counted toward seeding for the conference tournament scheduled later this month and pushed Sherando into first place in the league.

“Winning the first game that we played against them … it proved to some of our younger guys that we can definitely compete with a quality team such as Millbrook,” Warriors head coach Pepper Martin said. “But this one, without a doubt, had greater stakes.”

The Warriors (13-4, 3-1 Conference 21 West) mustered only five hits against Millbrook in the victory, but three of those came in the top of the first inning.

Miller got the one-out rally going with a single into left-center, which Pearce Bucher followed with a walk to put two on for Sherando. Senior first baseman Ravyn Rouse then put the Warriors on the board with a two-run double into right-center.

Hunter Entsminger’s two-run triple to right field two batters later gave Sherando a 4-0 lead before Kennedy and the Pioneers finally got out of the inning.

“The first inning we were definitely just hunting fastballs, laying off the off-speed and off the junk,” Entsminger said. “Just hammering fastballs. That’s what you’ve gotta do.”

Sherando mustered just two more hits over the final six innings but Miller ensured the four-run lead would hold up by gutting out six innings that were littered with run-scoring chances for the Pioneers (11-4). Miller limited Millbrook to just two runs (one earned) on three hits, four walks, a hit-by-pitch and three strikeouts to improve his record to 5-1 this season.

He also stranded eight Millbrook baserunners over his six innings and though Sherando committed three errors in the win – two with Miller on the mound – the senior credited his defense for his ability to wiggle out of trouble on a consistent basis Tuesday night.

“I mean my defense played terrific. I only had two, three strikeouts. They were putting balls in play, we made outs and that’s all you can ask for. They got me out of jams, I didn’t get myself out of the jams.”

Millbrook’s first run came in the second inning after Kennedy’s fly ball to left was misjudged and fell in for a leadoff double, setting up Kyle Keenan’s RBI double that was nearly caught on a dive by Warriors left fielder Brett Bodenschatz.

Nate Jaye’s looping fly ball down the right-field line in the fifth preceded Conor Hartigan’s RBI sacrifice fly that cut Sherando’s lead to 4-2.

That was the extent of the Pioneers’ run-scoring success against Miller, however, as the Sherando senior stranded at least one baserunner in each of his final five innings. In the sixth, the Pioneers loaded the bases on two walks and an error but Miller got Jaye to fly out to Tad Dean in deep center to keep the lead intact.

“He’s one of the toughest competitors I’ve ever coached,” Martin said of Miller. “He’s so mentally strong and tough. He battled. He wants to be the guy that has the ball when it’s the big game. … He thrives in pressure situations.”

Entsminger, who came on in relief of Miller to start the bottom of the seventh inning, handled his own tense frame en route to his third save of the season. An error, a walk and a double steal put the tying runs in scoring position for Millbrook with two outs in the final inning, but Entsminger got Keenan looking at a backdoor curveball for strike three to seal the win.

“Up two runs, only thing on my mind is get the batter out,” said Entsminger, who had two strikeouts in his inning of work. “I don’t care how it’s gonna happen, I just gotta get the batter out. That’s all that’s in my head.”

Kennedy settled into a groove for Millbrook after his rough first inning, going on to toss 6 2/3 innings before running into the daily 110-pitch limit in the top of the seventh. The senior lefty was charged with three earned runs on four hits and four walks and rode his curveball to 11 strikeouts.

“He did a phenomenal job,” Pioneers head coach Brian Burke said. “He’s a top-rate pitcher and he gets banged around a little bit, he could very easily have just packed it in. But he battled. I thought he found his breaking ball, was able to push his strikeouts up a little bit once he did that. To their credit, they took advantage of some pitches in the first inning. Kennedy pitched a whale of a game and its unfortunate he comes out on the bad side. We had seven innings to try to do something and just weren’t able to support him tonight.”

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