June 15 - Jay Cassady had a day to remember.
Lake Braddock’s junior left-hander earned the decision in both the Class 6 state semifinals and championship game, drove in five runs and walked off the field at RF&P Park in Glen Allen yesterday having led the Bruins to the program’s second state title.
Cassady tossed 3.2 scoreless frames and drove in two runs as No. 2 Lake Braddock defeated No. 1 Westfield, 6-2, just hours after he pitched the final 2.1 innings and went 3-for-3 with a triple and three RBI in a 9-6 semifinal win over James River.
“I just tried to go out there and be tough and put together good at-bats to help us get this win,” he said after the Bruins (26-3) won their first state title since 2012. “It’s just a great feeling.”
Added Lyle Miller-Green, who earned a no-decision after going 4.1 innings in the semifinal win: “I was very happy for him. I’ve watched him play for three years now and have enjoyed watching him grow into what he is today.”
After Cassady’s sacrifice fly plated the game’s first run, the Bulldogs (24-4) took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Danny Leo doubled home a run and Nick Lottchea followed three batters later with an RBI single. Lake Braddock evened things at 2-2 on Mike Weidinger’s third-inning single, but Westfield - which held off Ocean Lakes, 9-7, for its 14th straight win in yesterday’s first semifinal - looked to be in business again in the fourth.
With one out, Ryan Lattomus reached when Weidinger dropped a pop fly next to the first base bag. Lottchea then singled and Jake Hockett’s ground ball was misplayed by shortstop Bobby Leitzel to load the bases. Cassady, on in relief of starter Andrew Schaeb, worked out when second baseman Sam Grable and Leitzel turned a double play off Kevin Mackmin’s grounder.
The Bruins’ explosive lineup, which averaged 8.3 runs this season, then started to wear on Westfield starter Joe Clancy. Lyle Miller-Green singled to lead off the top of the fifth and Ryan Cuadros doubled him in for a 3-2 lead. After Leitzel’s grounder moved Cuadros to third, Schaeb singled to right to score Cuadros. Schaeb would score later in the inning on Cassady’s ground out to push the margin to 5-2.
“I thought we had the best lineup in the state. I thought that all year and I’m glad we proved it,” said John Thomas, who led his club to the state title in his first season after four years as the pitching coach under former skipper Jody Rutherford.
The long inning chased Clancy, who had won all nine of his decisions entering the game. Leitzel and Grable then spun another double play in the bottom of the fifth to erase a leadoff single by Derek Furr, and Cassady stranded two runners in each of the final two innings. He’d strike out Lattomus to strand Travis Blee and Clancy in scoring position and end the game.
Miller-Green, the Region 6C Player of the Year who will play at George Mason University next year, then connected on a long home run off Leo, who came on in relief to begin the sixth. The homer was his 12th of the season and program-record 20th of his career.
“They had a good game plan,” said Clancy, who will pitch for the University of Maryland at Baltimore County. “They went with pitches and didn’t try and do too much. They were looking for base runners and not home runs, and they executed with guys in scoring position while we left guys on. They just got us today.”
Notable: Weidinger and Clancy each finished with a game-high three hits. Miller-Green and Leitzel had two hits apiece for the Bruins, while Lottchea, Hockett and Leo had two hits for the Bulldogs … Clancy finished 9-1 after surrendering five runs (two earned) on seven hits over five innings. He struck out two and walked one … Schaeb allowed two runs on six hits over 3.1 innings in his first start since May 14 … Both semifinal contests and the championship game were held on the same day after the semifinals were rained out on Thursday. The games were also rained out from their original dates last week … Westfield was playing in its first state final since 2004, when it lost to Western Branch, 3-2 … Lake Braddock is now 2-3 in state championship games, having lost in 1988, 1993 and 1997 before winning its first title in 2012 under Rutherford.
Quotable: “Just super happy for our guys. I told them before we got off the bus, they deserve it. We just talked about going one pitch at a time for 14 innings and to be the tougher team, and I just couldn’t be more proud.” - Lake Braddock coach John Thomas
Media: Pregame interviews with Westfield coach Rob Hahne and Lake Braddock coach John Thomas. Player of the Game interview with Lake Braddock’s Jay Cassady. Postgame interview with Lake Braddock’s John Thomas, Lyle Miller-Green and Bobby Leitzel. Game highlights on the magazine’s Facebook page.
Photo of Lake Braddock’s Jay Cassady by Gregg Zelkin