Unger, Emmart lead Post 21 to win
WINCHESTER — The opportunity to sharpen their baseball skills this summer is something guys like Ethan Emmart and Cody Unger don’t plan to take for granted.
Emmart just finished up his freshman year at Potomac State Junior College and Unger, a former Handley product who completed a two-year enrollment at Middleburg Academy this spring, will attend Ferrum College in the fall to continue his career.
Both players had an impact in Winchester Post 21’s 7-2 American Legion win over Woodsboro (Md.) Post 282 on Sunday afternoon at James Wood High School’s R. Charles Hott Field.
Batting in the three-hole, Unger (3 for 4, two run scored, two RBIs) provided clutch hitting at the top of the order, while Emmart pitched three scoreless innings in relief to cool Woodsboro’s bats in the late innings.
Though it left 13 runners on base in the win, Post 21 kept the pressure on and finished up with 13 hits in only its second game of the season.
“The first part of the game was a little tough [to have quality at bats], but I guess you get used to it,” said Unger, who is in his fifth season with the 19-and-under age club. “But we started stringing hits together and everything fell into place for us. We started hitting the ball and everyone was running the bases well.
“If you keep running around [the bases], you’re bound to score some runs.”
After seeing Woodsboro (4-2) claw to within 3-2 after starting pitcher Daniel Nawrocki gave up a pair of runs in his final inning, the fifth, Post 21 (2-0) gave relief pitcher Emmart some room to work with by putting up four runs in the sixth to break the game open.
Woodsboro was on its second pitcher, Connor Cool, who had only given up one run in his first two innings out of the bullpen. But in the sixth, Cool had trouble getting out of an inning in which Winchester strung together six hits and batted around its order.
The first run Post 21 pushed across was manufactured well, as Brian Thomas singled, stole second and went to third on an overthrow, and raced home to score off a wild pitch.
What followed from there, with one out, was four straight hits. Back at the top of the order, Nick Goode and Ryan Hartigan (2 for 5, two run scored) both singled in front of Unger, who plated Goode with a hit-and-run single to right and moved Hartigan to third on the hit.
Chase Smallwood (2 for 5, run scored) lined a run-scoring hit off the shortstop’s glove, then Emmart (2 for 5, two RBIs) got his second double on a rip to left to drive in Unger and make it 7-2.
“It was good to get a little cushion so we could cruise through from there,” Unger said.
Missing at least four starters due to post-graduation activities, Post 21 made the most of things after having several games rained out earlier in the week.
“We couldn’t even practice with all the rain we’ve had,” Post 21 manager Steve Smallwood said. “We’ve just been telling the boys to get in the [batting] cage as much as they can on their own, and if they could get a bullpen [session], get a bullpen.”
Smallwood liked what he got out of both Nawrocki (five innings, six hits, two earned runs, three walks, five strikeouts) and Emmart (three innings, no runs, one hit, one walk, and four strikeouts) to make it feel like a more complete victory for his squad.
Jordan Clark finished up with a scoreless inning in the ninth.
“Daniel [Nawrocki] gave us a quality start and that’s what we were looking for out of him,” Smallwood said. “He got us five innings and he threw 91 pitches, but he really didn’t get hurt in any inning.”
Nawrocki was cruising through until he got touched for two runs on three hits in the fifth, and loading the bases with two outs.
Smallwood paid Nawrocki a visit to the mound, and after a brief talk, decided to give his starter a chance to finish out the frame.
Nawrocki worked through the jam and got a ground out to end the fifth.
“When I went out to see him he told me he was getting gassed [tired] and I asked him, ‘Well, can you get me this last out?,’” Smallwood said. “We told him to keep the ball down and he got that ground out and we were out of it.”
From there, Emmart was near spotless on the mound.
Having excellent command, Emmart faced just 10 batters in his three innings and had a good mix of power (four strikeouts) and keeping the ball low (forcing five ground ball outs) to make his appearance a plus for Post 21.
“Coach Smallwood told me that I would be doing a lot of closing this season, and I understand that,” said Emmart, who said he pitched in only three games and a total of five innings this spring at Potomac State. “I’ll just get to pitch more often.
“I don’t throw extremely hard so Ilike to mix my pitches up. I feel like I have pretty good off-speed stuff. As long as you keep them guessing at the plate, you should be in good shape.”
Early on, Woodsboro had four errors that led to a 3-0 Winchester lead (all the runs scored were unearned). Then once it got back into the game, Post 282, which also was without several key players due to post-graduation trips, fell further behind when Winchester had its big sixth-inning rally.
“We need to get the rust off, and what you saw there today was typical being out of baseball shape for a week,” Post 282 manager Jeremy Long said. “[Our] pitching, I was pleased with. But, [Post 21] answered everything we had to give them.”
Starting pitcher Josh Kutchey (no earned runs allowed over three innings] took the loss for Woodsboro, and Marky Smith (3 for 5, run scored) led Post 282 at the plate.