Entsminger’s two-hitter leads Warriors past Vikings

STEPHENS CITY — Hunter Entsminger wants the ball in the big games.

On Monday night the Sherando sophomore came up with a masterful performance to help the Warriors defeat Loudoun Valley, 3-0, in the first round of the Region 4A West baseball tournament.

“I love this kind of pressure,” Entsminger said. “I love that coach has the trust in me to put me out there in a big game, just being a sophomore. I love being out there. I just love to compete.”

Entsminger threw a complete game two-hitter and struck out 10 in the victory.

He said it was the first time he had pitched more than two innings in over a month. Sherando had been using him in relief, instead of as a starter over the final weeks of the season.

“My arm was really loose, the best it’s ever been,” Entsminger said. “As much as I love closing, closing is probably one of my favorite things to do, but starting you got to have a different mindset. You got seven innings — that’s what you’re thinking — seven innings. You got to do it for the team, throw strikes, be efficient, and make them put the ball in play and get outs.”

Entsminger and Loudoun Valley sophomore Michael Grupe were locked in a pitcher’s duel throughout the early innings.

Entsminger struck out seven in the first four innings.

Sherando’s Adam Miller and Pearce Bucher each singled in the top of the first, but Miller was later picked off second and Bucher was stranded at second to end the inning.

The Warriors took the lead in the bottom of the fourth. Miller was hit by a pitch and Bucher followed with an infield single.

Miller and Bucher each stole a base, and a two-run single by Myles McPartland gave Sherando a 2-0 advantage.

“I was just trying to do my job,” McPartland said. “Either elevate something to score on a sac fly or maybe getting a ground ball down and I ended up doing that — scored two runs. It felt pretty good. It was a scoreless game, and I just wanted to get my team on board. And I think that really brought some energy to the dugout.”

Entsminger retired 11 batters in a row, until giving up a hit to Loudoun Valley’s Logan Cooper in the top of the fifth. He finished with 10 strikeouts in the contest.

“When you get to the postseason — at this stage regional play — you’re going to keep yourself in ballgames if you can get a good pitching effort and a solid defense behind him and we were able to do that,” Sherando coach Pepper Martin said. “Fortunately we were able to scratch a few runs across to give him a little bit of a cushion, but Hunter was totally on today.”

The Warriors (17-5) added a run in the bottom of the fifth.

With one out, Jack Duvall drew a walk from Grupe. A throwing error moved pinch-runner Nick Manza to second. With two outs, Miller reached on an infield single and a throwing error scored Manza for a 3-0 edge.

Miller, who suffered a hand injury and was replaced in the sixth inning, and Bucher led the Warriors with two hits each.

Sherando plays at Liberty Christian Academy at 4:30 p.m. today in the regional quarterfinals.

“They’re a great team,” Entsminger said. “We’ll just have to compete with them, put the ball in play, make the routine plays and make some great ones. And then just hope the ball falls our way.”