Warriors overcome rocky start to pound Kettle Run

Sherando first baseman Michael Usa waits for the ball during this pick-off attempt on Kettle Run's Joe Vogatsky during third inning action Thursday night in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

STEPHENS CITY – Sherando had the necessary answers to Kettle Run’s offensive outburst through the early innings of Thursday’s Class 4 Northwestern District baseball matchup.

The Cougars tagged Sherando starting pitcher Hunter Entsminger for four runs in the first two frames, an output the Warrriors matched and complemented with a pair of big innings en route to an 11-4 win at home.

Sherando, which broke the game open with four runs in the fourth and three more in the sixth, had 15 hits in the victory. It was the first Class 4 district win of the season and the third straight overall for the Warriors (4-3, 1-2 district).

“The game did start out a little auspiciously,” Warriors head coach Pepper Martin said. “Hunter didn’t have his best stuff starting out, but what we did tonight against a very good team is … we answered. We took the approach tonight that we wanted to try to win every inning. And then Hunter settled down, starting getting ahead in counts, pitching to contact. We made all the routine plays behind him. I thought we were pretty close to putting all four phases of the game together tonight.”

A leadoff walk burned Entsminger in the top of the first, as Jared Johnson scored on Bailey Burke’s RBI groundout to give Kettle Run a 1-0 lead.

Sherando's Frank Ritter rounds second for third base during a first inning triple to center field during Thursday night's game against Kettle Run. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Warriors came right back to take the lead in the bottom half with some help from Kettle Run’s defense. Frank Ritter led off with a triple to center off Burke, the Cougars’ starting pitcher, and an error on Payne Bauer’s high pop up to third base put two in scoring position one out later.

Ritter scored on Entsminger’s grounder to short and Bauer – who had hustled into second on his misplayed pop fly – also crossed the plate on the play after the throw to first was dropped.

“We hit the ball well and we had timely hits. We ran the bases extremely well,” Martin said. “Played good solid defense and got – not his best, but a pretty gutsy performance out of Hunter.”

After using small ball to pick up a run in the first, Kettle Run (7-4, 3-2) battered Entsminger for four hits and three runs in the second. Joe Vogatsky led off with a double and, after a walk to Andrew Adair, scored when Michael Aldrich’s single to right field was bobbled.

Johnson’s two-run double three batters later gave the Cougars a 4-2 lead before Entsminger bore down and struck out back-to-back batters to strand two in scoring position and halt the damage.

Sherando's MIchael Usa rounds second base for third after hitting a lead-off triple in the third inning. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Warriors again responded in the bottom half of the second with a pair of runs. Tad Dean cut the deficit to a run when he golfed a 1-1 pitch into right field for an RBI single that scored David Ashby – who led off with a single – and Bauer’s RBI groundout tied the game at 4-all.

Sherando wasted Michael Usa’s leadoff triple in the third but came back with four runs off Burke to break the tie in the fourth. Dean’s bunt single and Bauer’s double set up Entsminger’s two-RBI single, and Usa launched a two-run home run to left – his first of the season – to push the lead to 8-4.

The Warriors padded their lead in the sixth with three more runs on five hits off Cougars reliever Zach Alvarez. Bauer led off the inning with a triple – Sherando’s third leadoff triple of the night – and scored on Usa’s looping single to shallow center with the infield drawn in.

Duvall drove in another run with a double to left-center and Ashby gave the Warriors an 11-4 lead with an RBI single on a grounder down the third-base line.

Usa (three RBIs) and Ashby led Sherando with three hits each. Ritter, Dean and Bauer (three runs scored) had two hits apiece for the Warriors, who had six extra-base hits in the win.

Sherando pitcher Hunter Entsminger fires a pitch during their Thursday night contest against Kettle Run in Stephens City. Rich Cooley/Daily

Eight starters had at least one hit for the Warriors.

“Any player that did not get a hit tonight either (sacrificed) a runner up, got on base or scored a run,” Martin said. “We had contributions all the way, one through nine.”

Entsminger, a junior right-hander, settled in on the mound after his rocky start and went on to retire 12 of the final 14 batters he faced before giving way to Dean in the top of the seventh. Entsminger allowed four earned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six.

Kettle Run had just one hit outside of the second inning.

“His command was off a little bit and early on he was struggling with his breaking ball and locating his changeup, which made him essentially a one-pitch pitcher the first couple innings,” Martin said of Entsminger. “But we made a couple adjustments and he started to get it back. His changeup looked really, really good from the third inning on, and his breaking ball got better.”

Sherando's Payne Bauer slides safely into second after his high pop up in the infield was dropped and he managed to reach second base on the play. Kettle Run's Caden DeCroo put on the late tag. Rich Cooley/Daily

Dean induced three groundouts in a clean seventh inning to seal the win.

Martin said Sherando’s performance on Thursday was spurred on by recent injury to all-state third baseman Pearce Bucher, who hurt his knee in a win over Skyline on Monday and did not play against Kettle Run. Martin said Bucher, a senior, will undergo an MRI on Friday to further assess the injury.

“They had him in their thoughts and they were playing for him,” Martin said.

Burke took the loss for Kettle Run while allowing eight runs (six earned) on 10 hits, two walks, a hit batter and three strikeouts.