Nawrocki guides Pioneers to 4-2 victory over Skyline
WINCHESTER — Millbrook senior Daniel Nawrocki was fairly modest about his performance after he pitched six innings to beat Skyline 4-2 Monday on Senior Night.
Just like a good teammate is apt to do, Nawrocki handed most of the accolades to the guys who backed him up well and made all the crucial plays to keep the Pioneers solidly in second place in the Northwestern District as the final week of the regular season comes to a close.
Before facing the Hawks, Nawrocki walked out with his parents to be honored before the first pitch, joining Zach Hughes, James Morse, and Matt Amos as the foursome played perhaps for the final time on their home field.
And, with that thought in place, the Pioneers played with purpose, taking a 2-0 lead after one inning, going without an error in the field, and getting a starting pitcher to eat innings to allow closer (and shortstop) Jacob Jaye to come on and convert his fourth save in five opportunities.
“This is probably one of the best ways I could have gone out,” said Nawrocki, who has been able to step in and post a 5-2 record after pitching very few innings last season. “I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, but we found a way to strand [Skyline] runners.
“I definitely have good faith with my defense. They’ve made good progress through this year, making less and less errors each game. We came out tonight and played really good defense.”
Skyline was on the cusp a few times of at least tying things up, but the Hawks left two runners in scoring position in both the fourth and sixth innings to leave Millbrook off the hook.
The Hawks got their first run in the fourth when pitcher Michael Burrola singled to center with two outs to drive in Nick Helmick to cut Millbrook’s lead to 2-1.
Jacob Sims then sent a deep fly to right that looked like a hit coming off the bat, but Amos stayed with it and ran down the fly for the third out.
Millbrook (10-9, 7-4 Northwestern) took a 3-1 lead to the sixth before Skyline (9-9, 4-6) bunted for three straight hits to begin the inning.
After Burrola hit a sacrifice fly to right to again make it a one-run game, Nawrocki struck out Sims for the second out as Chaz Rutherford took second on catcher’s indifference.
Again facing a tight spot with runners on second and third, Nawrocki, after a brief visit from Millbrook coach Brian Burke, got Joe Dawkins to ground out to short on the next pitch to end the sixth.
Nawrocki handed the ball over to Jaye to begin the seventh, and by going six innings (he allowed nine hits, two earned runs, walked one, and struck out four), Nawrocki eclipsed the 40-inning mark that Burke had set for a goal heading into the season.
But by being able to develop into one of the most consistent pitchers not only for Millbrook but also for the entire Northwestern, Nawrocki has gradually made a name for himself.
“He’s gone above and beyond our expectations, as far as pitching goes,” Burke said. “He’s been consistent and he’s been making guys earn their way on. His strikeout-to-walk ratio has been very good this season.”
Both teams had last played on May 1, but neither played like a long layoff had taken place.
Millbrook got rolling against Burrola early. Trenton Burgreen drew a one-out walk, Jaye singled to left, and Ryan Hartigan had a seeing-eye RBI single to right for a 1-0 lead.
Then, with two outs, Nawrocki helped himself with a run-scoring double down the third-base line.
Nawrocki, who had a second double leading off the sixth, scored an insurance run on a sacrifice fly by Amos.
In the seventh, Skyline got Dakota Smith (2 for 3) on board leading off with his single to right off Jaye. But Smith was erased in a rundown started with a pickoff from freshman catcher Alex Amos.
Jaye gave up a walk, but he got Tyler Johnson to pop-out to short and struck out Nick Helmick (3 for 4, two runs scored) with three straight breaking pitches to end the game.
The Pioneers scratched whatever they could across against the sophomore Burrola, getting a fifth-inning run after Bruce Keenan led off by reaching on a bloop single to left and eventually scoring on a two-out infield hit by Hartigan (2 for 3).
To say the least, Burke was pleased his team came out focused and showed no signs of rust.
“With a layoff, you don’t know what to expect,” Burke said. “Before the game started, our coaching staff said ‘What team is going to show up tonight?’
“We came out and scored two runs in the first inning and could have expanded on it, but, I’ll tell you what, their kid did a nice job on the mound tonight.
“I think we had to manufacture runs tonight.”
Burrola, who went the distance in defeat for Skyline, has worked his way into a top-two spot in the rotation and Hawks coach Ben Taylor has seen steady progress from the right-hander.
“He’s been a pleasant surprise,” Taylor said. “I thought he competed and gave us a chance to win. We weren’t sure we were going to count on him this year, but we had some injuries and he’s started seven games this year, which is pretty good for a sophomore.
“He was cool, calm, and collected, and he had two RBIs [batting] tonight.”
Millbrook will travel to James Wood to complete the regular season on Wednesday, then will not play again until Monday night’s Northwestern District tournament semifinal round in Front Royal.
Nawrocki likes how things have played out for him and his teammates recently (the Pioneers have won eight of their last 10) and are hoping to have a good tournament.
“We came out really focused [against Skyline] — probably as focused as we’ve been all season,” Nawrocki said. “The chemistry is great and we all get along really well.
“We’d like one more shot at [district regular-season champion Sherando]. We’ve played with them in most of the games, we just had a couple bad innings.”