Colonels softball continues hot streak in 14-3 rout of Millbrook
WINCHESTER — Nothing beats being outside and facing “live” pitching.
At least, that’s the way James Wood junior pitcher and leadoff batter Kierstyn Peacoe sees it. Wet field conditions have often kept the Colonels’ softball team inside this season, and the early games that have been played have been in weather only an eskimo would enjoy.
“Before our first few games, I don’t think we actually had a practice on our field,” Peacoe said. “Now we’re actually getting to use our field and we’re getting to see live pitching instead of the pitching machine [in the gym]. And anyone can hit off a pitching machine.”
When they upset Dulles District heavy Loudoun County on Wednesday in their home opener (the last local team to host a game), the Colonels put up 10 runs. Thursday night, they blew out Skyline, 14-3, and the hit parade continued on Friday night when Millbrook paid a visit.
James Wood captured its first run-rule win of the season, romping past the Pioneers 16-0 at home in a game shortened to five innings.
“Hitting is very contagious,” said Peacoe, who helped her cause with a three-hit game. “All you need is that one hit. Everyone gets pumped up. Everyone is really focused in, ‘I want to do just like her. I really want to hit.’”
James Wood (3-3, 2-1 Northwestern) pushed across three runs in the first inning, and batted around in the third (five runs) and the fourth (eight runs) to end things early.
Ted McDaniel is in his 13th season as coach of the Colonels and he couldn’t be more happy with how his team has suddenly turned into a scoring machine.
“[We’ve scored] 40 runs in three days, so we’re swinging the bats great,” said McDaniel, who saw his team follow up a 20-hit attack at Skyline with 14 hits against Millbrook. “I don’t know what it is. The first couple games we couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a base fiddle. Now we’ve just gotten to where we’re ripping it — everyone in the lineup is ripping the ball.”
With that said, McDaniel was quick to credit Millbrook sophomore pitcher Sarah Clarke, who went the distance in defeat. Though the Colonels constantly put pressure on the error-plagued Pioneers (they had nine fielding errors, leading to several unearned runs), McDaniel was impressed with Clark’s makeup in the circle and how she competed much better than she did a season ago.
“Sarah Clark, their pitcher, I mean, she’s picked up five or six miles per hour [in velocity] since last year,” McDaniel said. “She’s getting it up in the zone better. I think she’s going to be a really good pitcher.”
James Wood already has a veteran in Peacoe, who allowed just two hits and one walk in picking up her first shutout win of the season. The right-hander trusted her defense (which played errorless behind her) and forced eight groundball outs. She also recorded five strikeouts.
“It’s definitely great,” Peacoe said of the well-rounded support she gets from teammates. “As a pitcher I get my confidence knowing I can put the ball over the plate and my defense will be there to back me up. I have a great catcher, a great pitch-caller, and I do know if I let up and [opponents] score a few runs, my offense will come back and get those runs back for me.”
The odds seemed stacked early on for Millbrook (3-4, 0-1), which was playing its district opener. The Pioneers had three errors in the first inning and the Colonels never had to worry about playing from behind.
Peacoe (3 for 4, run scored, RBI) led off with a sharp single through the left side, then Taylor Rizzari’s sacrifice bunt moved Peacoe up two bases when Millbrook failed to back up and cover third. Rachel Largent then hit a routine grounder to third, but the Pioneers could not get the out at home when the throw was a bit high and then dropped. An error at second followed on Charlotte Viands’ grounder to let a run in, and another infield error at short followed that miscue.
Viands scored from third on Whitney Dick’s grounder back to the circle for a 3-0 lead before Clark got out of the inning with a ground out.
Clark actually pitched a good second inning, allowing only an infield hit to Peacoe and striking out two to hold James Wood scoreless. An inning later, it all came apart for the Pioneers.
The Colonels would have five straight batters reach safely and the short game also helped James Wood expand its lead in a five-run frame.
A single by Viands (3 for 4, three runs scored, two RBIs) got the rally going with one out, and another infield error by Millbrook allowed Jessy Shipman to reach. Dick (2 for 3, run scored, RBI) singled to center to load the bases before James Wood would get RBIs from each of its next four batters.
After Sara Hoover (1 for 3, two runs scored, three RBIs) had a two-run single to center, McKenzie Garrett (2 for 3, two runs scored) ended up with a run-scoring hit on her safety squeeze, and Haley Whitacre followed with her own sacrifice bunt for an RBI. An infield hit by Peacoe drove in the final run of the inning for an 8-0 lead before Clark retired Rizzari, the Colonels’ ninth batter of the third, on a fly out.
Not being able to keep up with James Wood offensively drained Millbrook as the game played out. The Pioneers are 3-0 when they score at least 10 runs, but they have been shut out in all four of their losses and given up at least 10 runs in each setback.
“I think it’s just that we [need] to have confidence in the [batter’s] box,” Millbrook first-year coach Mandee Madden said. “And we really haven’t found that swag around us yet. We do have very young girls [only one senior batted Friday]. I’m not making excuses, but right now we just have to figure out how to make this work. My girls work hard and hopefully that hard work is going to start paying off.”
The fourth inning was one the Pioneers would just as soon forget. James Wood sent 12 batters to the plate and scored eight runs, helped along by four Millbrook errors.
A double-error at short let in two runs, a dropped foul pop allowed Rizzari another chance (and she came through with a two-run single), and Viands’ third straight hit — a single to right — got through for another error. Viands actually had a pair of run-scoring hits in the fourth, and Largent (2 for 4, three runs scored, two RBIs) drove in a run with her triple to right.
“James Wood hit the ball very well tonight,” Madden said. “The other thing is they put the ball in play with runners on. Honestly, when we put the ball in play, they made the play they needed to make. They played a heck of game and Kierstyn pitched very well. We’ll just need to find a way to put the bat on the ball.”
It was indeed a big night for the Colonels. And getting outside and doing well against “live” pitching certainly didn’t hurt.
“We’d had a lot of problems with our field [before this week] and not being able to work on our defense, and we’ve spent more time [in the gym] on hitting,” McDaniel said. “So I guess this is what is paying off for us. This week, we really turned it on.”