James Wood softball edges Millbrook

WINCHESTER — Clutch pitching and clutch hitting will win you a lot of games, and the James Wood softball team got both Thursday night.

Senior Jenna Shull broke a 4-4 tie with a solo home run in the fifth inning and freshman Sophia Gerald allowed only two baserunners in four innings of relief to help the Colonels slip past Millbrook 6-5 at Millbrook High School in the last game before spring break for both teams.

“Every single scrimmage and game we’ve faced an elite pitcher and that’s going to help us in the long run,” said James Wood coach Patrick Gibson, whose team led 4-1 before the Pioneers scored three runs in the third inning to tie the game. “We got clutch hits, had quality at-bats all across the [lineup] one through nine.

“The momentum kept going back and forth. We had it early and they got it back and then Jenna came out and hit the bomb and you could feel them deflate a little bit. [But] they’re still dangerous, they were still in it, so we had to finish it and that’s what we did.”

James Wood (4-1, 1-1 Class 4 Northwestern District) got off to a great start with three runs in the top half of the first inning against Millbrook (2-2, 1-1).

With one out, Brynnen Williams walked and stole second against Millbrook’s Emma Martin. One out later, Skyla Compton put the Colonels on the board with a single to shallow left, scoring Williams for a 1-0 lead. Shull followed with a single, the first of her three hits on the night. With two outs and runners on second and third, an infield error allowed both runners to score for a 3-0 Wood lead.

With one out in the bottom of the first for Millbrook, Alexis McFarland (two runs) singled and Emma Martin walked against Shull. Cleanup hitter Jazmin Orr (2-for-4) got the Pioneers on the board with a double to the fence in right-center field, easily scoring McFarland to make it 3-1.

In the top of the second, Williams lifted the Colonels again. With two outs, she singled and stole second. Thanks to heads-up base-running, she was able to score from second on Aliza Judd’s infield single to make it 4-1.

In the bottom of the third inning, Millbrook rallied to tie the contest.

McFarland led off the inning with a walk. One out later, Orr drilled her second double of the game, another shot that rolled all the way to the fence. McFarland scored, and Orr moved to third on Rowan McCullough’s RBI groundout to make it 4-2.

Freshman Kaylen Giza walked and stole second to put the tying runs on in scoring position. Freshman Lexi Edwards lined a single that scored both Orr and Giza to tie the game 4-4.

“I think it shows a lot of leadership [coming back from three runs down], even from the younger [players],” Millbrook coach Carolyn Campbell said. “We talk a lot about how to handle the hard things better and this team showed that tonight.

“We had girls stay after practice the last couple of days to get some extra cuts in to prepare for this team because we knew they were going to score runs. So we knew we had to match that.”

With the game tied, Gerald moved from first to the pitching circle and threw the final four innings to pick up her first high school win. She only allowed two base runners, both on hits with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. She allowed one run on those two hits, no walks and two strikeouts. She retired the side in order in three of the four innings she worked.

With one out in the fifth, Shull (3-for-4) gave the Colonels the lead for good. She drilled a line drive to deep right field that hit the top of the fence and bounced over for a 5-4 lead. Katie Brannon followed with a walk and moved to third on a single by Gerald. Wood picked up an important insurance run when Brannon scored on a groundout by Molly Maynard for a 6-4 lead.

Gerald retired the first eight hitters that she faced. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Kimber Rudolph lined a shot to left that first looked like it might be caught to end the inning, but fell in for a hit. Millbrook’s No. 9 hitter Ciara Major then lined a double to right center that easily scored Rudolph and put Major in scoring position with the tying run. But Gerald recorded the final out of the inning to preserve the lead and set the Pioneers down in order in the seventh.

“Jenna gave us a strong three innings [pitching],” Gibson said. “We put Sophia in a spot there and she came through. She definitely showed what she’s made of. She was hitting her spots and getting outs. She was relying on her defense.”

Gibson was pleased to emerge with a tough win.

“Getting that three spot in the first inning was huge,” Gibson said. “That’s what we talked about all week, is jumping on top of teams. Especially a pitcher like Emma Martin. Props to Emma, she pitched great tonight.

“4-1 [record], I’ll take it against the pitching we’ve faced. This year I think us, Millbrook, and Sherando are evenly matched and every single night out it’s going to be whoever executes.”

The Colonels had an 8-6 hit advantage.

Both teams will return to action April 8. Millbrook will host Handley and James Wood will be home to face Liberty.


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