STEPHENS CITY — Home, sweet home.
After six games on the road, the Sherando baseball team finally got a chance to sit in its own dugout on Monday in a Class 4 Northwestern District clash against Liberty.
The Warriors treated the Eagles like they had most of their opponents this season as they rolled to their fifth consecutive win with an 11-0 triumph in five innings on a chilly evening.
McKinley Dean tossed five shutout innings to pick up the win, while Jack Duvall had a pair of hits and drove in three runs as the Warriors (6-1, 4-0 district) won their fifth straight.
Sherando, which has barely practiced on its diamond, looked right at home.
“We were ecstatic to finally play at home,” Warriors coach Pepper Martin said. “We’ve been the road Warriors for awhile. The good part of the situation was coming into tonight the last 10 out of 14 games are at home.”
“It was good to be back at home, and get a good experience in front of our home crowd and just have that feeling that we’re welcome here,” Duvall added.
The Eagles (4-5, 1-3) entered the contest having won four of five games, including their most recent win 5-3 over Fauquier. Both district losses had come against Millbrook.
“We definitely did not take them lightly,” Martin said. “They’re a scrappy team and they always have been. They were the same way last year.”
But the Eagles never had a chance on Tuesday.
The Warriors wasted no time in jumping on wild Liberty starter John Untiedt in the bottom of the first. Untiedt hit Nick Mazza with the first pitch of the game. After an out, he walked Payne Bauer and Hunter Entsminger to load the bases.
That brought up the red-hot Michael Usa, who entered the contest hitting .591. Untiedt got ahead of Usa 1-2, but then uncorked a wild pitch which plated Mazza.
With a full count, Usa showed why he has been so hot by lining a single up the middle to drive in Bauer and Entsminger.
After a strikeout and walk, Untiedt got out of the inning with a bit of luck as a wild pitch ricocheted straight back to catcher Logan Rodney, who threw to third to get Usa for the third out.
Untiedt’s stint on the mound was finished after he walked Andrew Plunkett to lead off the second inning. Sammy Leach relieved but could not hold the Warriors off the board. James Harris sacrificed courtesy runner Hunter Estep to second. One out later, Duvall delivered an RBI single to left field to make it 4-0.
An inning later, the Warriors erupted for seven more. A walk, an error and another walk loaded the bases with one out. Plunkett drew a walk to drive in the first run. Harris then hit an RBI grounder that was booted to keep the bases full.
Mazza was hit by a pitch again to plate another run. Duvall then lofted a two-run single down the right-field line. After Duvall moved to second, Bauer drilled a two-run single to right-center to make it 11-0.
“We’re not all trying to do it by ourselves,” Duvall said of the team’s offensive approach. “Everyone knows they have a job and to get the job done in that single at-bat.”
While his teammates were circling the bases, Dean cruised along thanks to some help from his fielders. The Warriors turned double plays in the second, third and fourth innings to erase baserunners. Shortstop Harris turned two on grounders near the bag at second. On the third one, second baseman Duvall made an excellent turn and first baseman Usa made a nice stretch and pickup on a 5-4-3 double play.
“My teammates did a really good job of getting double plays and bailing me out of some tough situations,” Dean said.
Dean allowed four hits, two of them infield singles. He had one walk, hit a batter and struck out two. Only one runner reached third.
“I did pretty good,” Dean said. “I didn’t get ahead as much as I wanted to, but the team came out on top so I feel pretty good.”
“McKinley is a pitcher that when he is on, he can compete with anybody,” Martin said. “He has to exude that confidence when he goes to the mound because he is that good.”
Dean, who has served primarily in a relief role, did not find out until before the game that he would start.
“It’s kind of the same approach,” Dean said. “I try to go in there and throw as well as I can.”
“We needed to see what he could do this week because next week we’re going to have four games,” Martin said. “... He did a solid job with a real tight defense behind him.”
The Warriors, who are averaging more than 11 runs per game, finished with just five hits in the contest, but took advantage of eight walks, two hit batsmen and two hitters reaching on errors.
“Offensively, this was a little bit different of an approach as we had in some of our previous games,” Martin said. “We had to show a little bit of patience and discipline at the plate. I thought we did a real nice job because a couple of those pitchers were just missing in-and-out.”
The Warriors are back on the road again today for a 4 p.m. clash at James Wood.