Brown, Huskies stymie Pioneers baseball in 9-3 win
WINCHESTER — Even on a cold night, Tuscarora pitcher Liam Marshall Brown was having fun.
Blustery conditions at Millbrook did not change Brown’s mood, and the senior right-hander didn’t seem to mind much sitting on the bench early when his teammates gave him a five-run third inning to give the kind of run support any pitcher would enjoy.
When it was all over, and while he was getting his durable arm “iced” on the chilly evening, Brown had a pretty straight-forward answer to how he was able to get a complete game and his first win of the season as Tuscarora rolled over Millbrook 9-3 Wednesday night in a non-district baseball game.
“I like to have fun, and I was having a lot of fun tonight,” said Brown, who found his spots (95 pitches) well and allowed just two earned runs. “You just relax out there, get a lead, you know you have a team behind you scoring runs. You just keep your confidence up.”
The temperature by game’s end was in the mid-30s, but the chill stayed with Millbrook’s bats throughout much of the game.
The Pioneers (1-3) have had to replace many familiar faces from last season, and Millbrook coach Brian Burke had three freshmen and two sophomores in his lineup against the Huskies.
Only two seniors were on the field for Millbrook when the game began, and starting pitcher Zach Hughes, who saw little time on the mound last season, could not make it out of the third inning and struggled with location during his brief stint.
Tuscarora (2-2) is also young, but its ability to show patience at the plate, especially in a five-run third inning when it scored five runs on no hits, paid off big-time.
Hughes and Austin DeTray combined to walk six and allow seven free passes total in the third, and Millbrook fell behind 6-3.
The Pioneers made it to the Region II tournament last season as the Northwestern District runner-up and bowed out in the quarterfinal round to eventual Group AA state champion Powhatan.
Burke lost his top three pitchers off that team and has back few players that even saw a few innings of action.
“We’re young and inexperienced on the mound,” Burke said. “We lost our top four [arms], really, and we only have one varsity win coming back. And that was J. J. [junior Jacob Jaye], who only pitched 31/3 [innings].
“We’ve got to figure out who is going to step up and be able to provide the pitching for us. Tonight was a case of not being able to throw key pitches in key situations.”
The Pioneers fell behind 1-0 after an inning but bounced back in the second inning to score all their runs.
In the only inning Brown had any real difficulty, a walk to Hughes and singles from Matt Hendershot (2 for 3) and Daniel Nawrocki loaded the bases with one out.
Brown fanned Trey Braithwaite for the second out before freshman Trenton Burgreen (2 for 2, RBI) hit a hard chopper off Tuscarora first baseman Drake Etheridge’s chest.
One run scored on the infield hit, then another when Etheridge threw wide to a covering Brown at first.
A delayed double steal brought in another run and sent the Pioneers up 3-1 after two innings.
But everything changed dramatically an inning later for Millbrook and left it too far behind to mount a serious challenge the rest of the game.
Tuscarora coach Mark Bauer was pleased his hitters used good judgment in their at-bats in the breakthrough third inning. Three of the six walks came on 3-2 pitches (Ryan Wilson worked a 10-pitch at bat before he drew a walk), and an infield error by Millbrook also helped the Huskies along and let in two runs.
He also liked the fact that his team stayed aggressive when it did get pitches to hit, scoring two runs in the sixth and adding their final run in the seventh to win by six.
“Any time you can tack on a couple runs with a three-run lead, it kind of helps your pitcher and let’s them relax a little bit,” Bauer said. “We responded well. We put up one [run early], they scored three, and we came back and took care of things.”
The rest was up to Brown, who began the season on varsity last season before getting shipped down to the junior varsity at mid-season to finish up his development as a pitcher.
Brown lost to James Wood in his first start last week, but came back well to limit Millbrook to just five hits. He walked three and struck out five.
“Liam — he’s the guy we’re counting on,” Bauer said. “It was a quality start, and definitely the kind of start we needed from him.
“We’re hoping we can get a lot more of them. I think he was spotting his fastball early and then finally, he was throwing his curveball for strikes. He got it over, and that kept them off balance a bit. They’ve got some guys that can swing it in their lineup, so Ithink that helped for him to mix up [pitches] for strikes.”
Burke knows his team has little time to recover. Millbrook opens Northwestern District play tonight at home with Handley.
“We’re young, but we’ve got to be baseball players,” Burke said. “We can’t just be guys out here playing the game. Tonight wasn’t a good night for Millbrook baseball.
“We had just [five] hits, and we had been double-digit hits up until tonight. [Brown] painted the outside corner and we were trying to pull the ball. We didn’t make adjustments at the plate. We were swinging at curveballs instead of sitting on fastballs and thinking [go to] middle or to right field. And, it killed us tonight.”