James Wood advances to Class 4 baseball semifinals

WINCHESTER — Prior to Tuesday’s Class 4 quarterfinal game against Salem, the James Wood baseball program honored the 1985 team that advanced to the state title game.

About two hours later, the Colonels moved within a win of joining that team as a state finalist.

Nick Bell and Colin McGuire combined on a two-hitter and Brody Bower stroked a double and a triple and scored twice to lead James Wood to a 5-1 victory against the Spartans.

The Colonels (21-5) will face Monacan (13-12), a 5-3 winner over Grafton, in the semifinals on Friday at Riverbend High School in Fredericksburg. Jefferson Forest (21-4) and Hanover (21-2) will meet in the other semifinal.

“These seniors deserve this,” said McGuire, a junior who drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly and a double. “They’ve worked so hard in the offseason. So has everybody else, but these seniors lead. … They set the correct morale for us. I think that’s why we’re here today.”

“It means everything,” added Bower of the team’s run to the semifinals. “We’ve been working hard all year for it and the hard work is paying off.”

A paid crowd of 657 of mostly Colonels fans attended the contest at R. Charles Hott Field, filling the bleachers and the hill down the first base side. The atmosphere was electric and even featured a sing-along when, “Take Me Home Country Roads” was played.

“It was awesome,” said James Wood coach Adrian Pullen, whose team earned the home game by topping Millbrook 6-4 in the Region 4C final. “That’s why we wanted to win last week because we wanted this home game. We know that the community supports us and the community wanted to see a great baseball game. They got what they paid for tonight. I appreciate everyone who came out and supported us.”

Tuesday’s win didn’t come easy against the Spartans (16-7).

Bell (11-2), who has worked all year from in front in the count, struggled with control early, walking four batters in the first three innings. He survived by helping himself with a pickoff and with stellar outfield defense, especially from center fielder Jacob Roy and left fielder Kemper Omps who tracked down deep balls. First baseman Jared Neal also threw out a runner at third.

“I wasn’t finishing down the mound,” said Bell, who walked five and struck out four in the contest. “Everything was up early in the game. I had to make an adjustment. … About the fourth inning I finally settled down. I have a great defense behind me and I trust they are going to make the plays.”

“Nick didn’t have his greatest stuff, but we are not a team of individuals,” Adrian Pullen said. “We’re a team that will pick up a brother. Tonight, Nick didn’t have his best stuff, but the defense played well and the offense settled in. We put the pressure on, got the lead and then it’s just finish the game.”

Salem struck first in the top of the third inning. No. 9 hitter Tate Spitnale walked, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Trace Monroe’s single to make it 1-0. That would be the Spartans' last hit.

The Colonels came back in the bottom of the inning to square it. Catcher John Copenhaver led off with a single and was replaced on the bases by courtesy runner Michael Jackson. With Omps at the plate attempting to bunt, Spartans catcher Caleb Furmage threw back to first to try to pick off Jackson, who instead broke for second base and made it safely.

Omps fouled off two bunt attempts before getting down a sacrifice with two strikes to move Jackson to third. Bodie Pullen followed with a sacrifice fly to left and Jackson easily scored to make it 1-1.

The Colonels took the lead for good in the fourth. Bower led off grounding a triple down the right field line, sliding in just ahead of the throw to third.

“Off the bat, I was going three no matter what,” said Bower, who broke the school’s RBI mark this season. “To see [Coach Pullen] rounding me gave me the assurance to keep going.”

McGuire followed with a fly ball to center to score Bower. “I knew that I was going do my part for the team to get that runner in because we needed it big time,” McGuire said. “That was a big run at the time.”

Bell came out with two outs in the sixth when he reached 99 pitches. In order to possibly pitch in a state title game on Saturday, Bell could not hit 100 pitches.

McGuire relieved and got a quick out.

The Pioneers then tacked on three big insurance runs, while getting a couple of big scares in the bottom of the sixth.

Bower led off with a double to left-center, a hit that outstanding Salem center fielder Chase Greer nearly tracked down. McGuire then belted starter Trent Judd’s next pitch down the left-field line for an RBI double to make it 3-1.

“I was looking for a pitch to hit,” McGuire said. “He left it right down the middle and I hit it. It felt good. It felt good standing on second and to see everybody cheering for me.”

The two scares came later in the inning. McGuire raced home to score on a wild pitch but was inadvertently spiked on his right (pitching) hand. While hitting, Bell swung at an inside pitch that hit his index finger on his right (pitching) hand. Both players finished the game.

Eli Miller, who was on base all three at-bats (single, two walks) also scored on a wild pitch to make it 5-1.

“That was huge,” Adrian Pullen said of the three-run inning. “Now we can relax and we can go out and play. The nerves are gone. We can go finish and live for another day.”

McGuire cruised in the seventh with two groundouts and getting a fly to Roy to end it.

“I felt so much more comfortable going out there with a four-run lead than with a one-run lead,” said McGuire, who needed just 13 pitches to get four outs. “I still felt confident. You always have to feel confident out here because there are so many people out there supporting you.”

Bower’s two extra-base hits led the Colonels’ seven-hit attack.

“He’s been our RBI guy all year,” Adrian Pullen said of the lefty-swinging Bower. “Tonight, he was able to get on when he was leading off the innings and get things started for us. He got our offense going and got our guys excited. Then we can execute the game and how it is supposed to be played.”

The Colonels kept up the postseason pressure they have vowed to continue with five stolen bases, including two from Roy.

Now into the semifinals, the Colonels hope to give the James Wood faithful more to cheer about later this week.

“Our confidence is up,” Bell said. “Everyone is playing together. We’re playing the game of baseball.”

“We’re still building,” Adrian Pullen said of his team's play. “We get better every day. We’re executing better. We haven’t played our best game, yet.”

— Contact Walt Moody at

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