FRONT ROYAL – Jackson Arnold was in the zone on Thursday night.
The Warren County junior recorded 12 strikeouts in four innings of work as the Wildcats beat John Marshall, 15-0, in the Region 3B baseball tournament quarterfinals. The game was called after five innings. Typically, there is no mercy rule in the playoffs, but John Marshall requested the game be called after five if the Wildcats led by at least 10.
“I came in feeling good,” Arnold said. “My shoulder blade was feeling iffy (Wednesday), but I came in, iced it, warmed it up, got all stretched out. And I came out feeling great – arm felt good. Curveball was feeling good out of the hand. Fastball was feeling good out of the hand. Everything was working for me tonight.”
Arnold allowed only one hit in four innings and gave up one walk. He said that was the first time he’s had that many strikeouts in four innings, but he said how many strikeouts he had wasn’t on his mind during the game.
“I really was just trying to reduce those walks and reduce those hits,” Arnold said. “Just try to get as small amount of contact on the ball as possible. I just got lucky tonight with throwing the ball well and them not hitting it.”
The game was delayed by 40 minutes due to John Marshall arriving late. John Marshall had very little time to warm-up before the game started.
The Wildcats broke the game open in the bottom of the second. They sent 13 batters to the plate and had only two hits while scoring nine runs. Jordan Kenyon was hit by a pitch from John Marshall starting pitcher Darrien Underwood. Jake DiPatre reached on an infield single. Kenyon and DiPatre each stole a base and Kenyon eventually scored on a wild pitch.
With one out, Caleb Heflin drew a walk and DiPatre scored on an error on a grounder hit by Matt Thompson for a 2-0 lead. Arnold was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Dylan Johnson’s sacrifice fly RBI extended the lead to 3-0. After Ronnie Dodson drew a walk to load the bases again, Bryce Post and Kenyon followed with back-to-back RBI walks for a 5-0 advantage.
John Marshall’s Tre’Quan Harris-McKenzie relieved Underwood but the Wildcats kept scoring runs. DiPatre followed with an RBI single and two more runs scored on an error on the play to make it 8-0. Another run scored on a John Marshall error before the Justices finally retired the side.
Warren County was able to substitute all of its players into the game over the last two innings.
“I’m just really glad that everyone got to get in,” Warren County coach John Tierney said. “They had a long trip and they really didn’t get to warm-up much. It was kind of hard on them. It was just one of those games where you try to get everyone in and get some reps for the next game.”
Post pitched the fifth inning, striking out two and allowing one hit. DiPatre led the Wildcats offensively with two hits and three RBIs.
The second-seeded Wildcats will host either third-seeded Spotsylvania or sixth-seeded Culpeper County on Tuesday in the Region 3B semifinals with a Class 3 state berth on the line. Warren County lost to Spotsylvania, 5-4, on April 24 and beat Culpeper County twice.
The Wildcats (15-5) have won eight of their last nine games and Arnold said he is confident in the way the team is playing right now.
“We’re as confident as ever,” Arnold said. “We’re working on our hitting, our hitting’s getting better – better approaches (at the plate). Defense is as perfect as it always is. We’re getting production from the mound. We’re one of the best teams in this (region) if not the best. I believe that wholeheartedly – that we can compete with anybody. It doesn’t matter who they are or what their season’s been like.”
Arnold said being at home in the regional semis should help the Wildcats as well.
“Playing here is just a confidence booster,” he said. “Hearing (Warren County golf/wrestling) coach (and baseball lineup announcer) (Matt) Wadas yell out our names when we come out it’s just a big hype feeling – gets you ready for the game. It gets you in one of those zones that ‘hey were in our hometown this is our place. We’re not going to let anybody beat us here.’”