Western baseball’s Mallia throws gem to push Warriors past Orange

Zach Mallia threw a complete-game shutout, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning and Western Albemarle avenged an early-season loss to Orange County with a 3-0 win Tuesday night in Crozet.


After two innings in which neither team got a runner past first base, both teams threatened in the third. Orange’s Christian Koontz drew a walk and advanced to third on a pickoff error,  but Mallia got a strikeout on a 3-2 curveball to escape the inning.


Western managed to capitalize. Zach Simpson led off the bottom half with a single, getting to second on Isaac Sumpter’s sacrifice bunt. He scored the game’s first run when Wyatt Hull poked a single to right, and Hull crossed the plate himself two batters later on a single to left from Nate Fink.


“That’s why it’s a beautiful game,” Western coach Skip Hudgins said. “Getting guys on, moving runners over and getting them in, we did a nice job of that tonight.”


Baserunning mistakes hampered the Hornets in the late innings. In the fifth, they got caught in between first and second when deciding whether to steal and got tagged out. Then a lead off runner reached in the sixth by on an error, but got caught trying to stretch it to second.


“Errors in the field aren’t always going to kill you,” Orange coach Adam Utz said. “But we made a ton of mental errors. That falls back on just being prepared every pitch, every play. Tucker [Hensley] was outstanding on the mound, I thought he had an overall good game. He hung in there well. But when it’s not your night, it’s not your night.”


The night belonged instead to Mallia, who struck out seven and allowed just six baserunners on the evening. The complete-game effort was a welcome sign for the Western bullpen.


His offense got him an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Devin Powell laced a one-out triple to left and scored on Trevor Vernon’s RBI single.


“We just played a doubleheader yesterday, so we didn’t have a lot of arms coming into today,” Hudgins said. “Zach really came in and picked us up. Now we’ve got about four people who are fresh again.”


Tucker Hensley went the distance for Orange on the mound, allowing nine hits while striking out five. He didn’t walk a batter on the evening, performing perhaps well enough to win on many nights — just not with the game Mallia had.


Hensley himself broke up Mallia’s no-hit bid with a double to the center-field wall in the top of the seventh. He got to third as the Hornets put two men in scoring position, but perished there when Mallia ended the game by getting Lyon looking, once again on a curveball.


“My fastball was lively today, but to have a curveball like that backing me up, you can’t get better than that,” Mallia said. “Our defense has been amazing this year — Wyatt Hull at shortstop, Isaac Sumpter, a freshman at second, they made some great plays tonight.”


The Warriors travel to face Charlottesville Thursday while Orange hosts Louisa County in a rivalry game that night.