Millbrook outlasts James Wood in 11th as pitchers rule

WINCHESTER — If you came to Thursday night’s Class 4 Northwestern District showdown between Millbrook and James Wood looking for a lot of offense, you were in the wrong place.

For 10 innings, you saw goose eggs on the scoreboard and barely any hits. And in the end, it wasn’t a hit that decided the outcome.

Ryan Liero drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 11th to give the Pioneers a 1-0 victory against the Colonels in one of the best-pitched games fans in these parts have seen in quite some time.

James Wood’s Nick Bell was perfect through 6.2 innings and allowed just one hit and no walks and struck out 13 before he maxed out his pitch count after 8.1 innings. Millbrook starter Jerrod Jenkins allowed four hits and two walks while striking out nine in 7.1 innings before Ethan Burgreen closed with 3.2 innings of hitless relief. Colin McGuire relieved Bell and held the Pioneers off the board until the final frame.

“I’ve never played in a ballgame like that before that’s for sure, let alone going that long and grinding that hard,” said Burgreen, who tripled and scored the game-winner. “It went long, but it was still 0-0 on that scoreboard, man. It was a pitching performance to say the least.”

“The fans for the price of admission tonight saw four of the best pitchers around, certainly in this area and even in the region,” said Millbrook coach Brian Burke, who called the contest an instant classic. “It was just an incredible baseball game if you’re a purist and love baseball. This is one you don’t see very often anymore.”

“That’s probably one of the best pitched games and from both sides,” James Wood coach Adrian Pullen agreed. “We knew what we were getting into tonight — our best against theirs.”

Bell and Jenkins were outstanding throughout the regulation portion of the contest and beyond.

Bell stayed ahead of hitters all night long, throwing a first-pitch strike to an incredible 24 out of the 26 batters he faced. He didn’t allow a baserunner until Nate Brookshire lined a single into right field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.

To that point, Bell said he didn’t know he was perfect.

“Nah, I didn’t really think about it to be honest,” the junior right-hander said. “I was just worrying about getting outs and getting us out of the innings. My slider and changeup were working pretty good. I had everything going pretty good.”

The Pioneers did not have a runner reach third base against Bell. After an error and a stolen base in the eighth, Bell struck out the next two batters to retire the side.

“I’m not shocked,” Pullen said of Bell’s effort. “He’s a great pitcher, a great high school pitcher. He’s got more of those in him.”

Jenkins, who has a signed a Division I scholarship with Dallas Baptist, had his best effort of the season. The tall right-hander, who has fought control issues at times this spring, had his curveball working and his blazing fastball around the plate.

He allowed a pair of first-inning singles and then just two hits for the remainder of his stint. He worked out of a key jam in the fifth as the Colonels, via a walk and an error, had runners at second and third with one out. Jenkins stranded them with a strikeout and a groundout.

Jenkins, who was congratulated by Pullen after leaving the mound, said an adjustment on Wednesday helped with his control.

“Tonight he had more command of his fastball and more command of the strike zone,” Burke said. “He made good pitches. He has struggled with that, maybe trying to do a little too much. … Hopefully this sets him off in the right direction.”

Jenkins enjoyed dueling against Bell.

“It was very good pitching,” he said. “We both threw strikes and were around in the zone. It was very competitive. We both had our stuff tonight. It was very hard for the hitters tonight, let’s say that.”

The hitters agreed.

“I don’t think anybody could expect something like that,” Burgreen said. “I think we at least expected to scratch a couple across and expected them to scratch a couple across. We definitely didn’t see a 1-0 turnout for sure.”

As the contest progressed, it became apparent that one run might be all it took to win.

“It was who was going to come up with the clutch hit or make the first mistake and what team was going to take advantage of that key hit or key mistake by the other team,” Burke said. “It was just a great high school game, a great baseball game no matter what level.”

McGuire stranded runners in scoring position in the ninth and 10th, but the Pioneers finally capitalized in the 11th.

With one out, Burgreen lofted a fly ball down the right field line that was twisting away from the Colonels' Brody Bower, who had to make a long run. The ball ticked off the end of Bower’s glove and Burgreen raced around to third in what was ruled a triple.

Pullen had McGuire intentionally walk Brookshire and Jenkins to set up a force at home. McGuire battled back with a strikeout and got ahead of Liero 0-2, before the Pioneers’ infielder worked the count full and took a fastball low to end the marathon.

“He worked his way into that count,” Burke said of Liero. “He had some good aggressive swings early in the count. To work that thing into a 3-2 and with everything on the line and not try to do too much, he did a great job.”

“It all boiled down to who was going to execute to win or not execute enough to lose,” said Pullen, who squad left eight runners on base. “They did what they had to do because we both offensively left runs all over the place, we more than them.”

Burgreen, a starter last season who has been more of a closer this spring, was outstanding, striking out four with no walks.

“I just wanted to get ahead, but I didn’t want to fill it up too much,” Burgreen said of his approach. “I didn’t want to leave anything too fat over the plate and I wanted to keep them guessing.”

The win, coupled with Fauquier’s loss, gave Millbrook (11-1, 6-0) a huge lead in the district regular-season race. The Colonels (9-4, 4-3) are tied with Fauquier (4-3) and Kettle Run (4-3) for second place, with Sherando (3-3) a half game behind those three.

“Obviously it’s nice but it doesn’t change how we are going to play,” Burgreen said of the big district lead. “We’re going to try to keep progressing and playing our baseball. It’s nice to have a little cushion, but it does not change how we are going to play.”

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