June 6 - Westfield’s seniors may graduate this evening, but it’s unlikely they will be celebrating late into the night.
The No. 1 Bulldogs (23-3) will meet at the school tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. for their two hour, 15 minute bus ride to Deep Run High School, the site of their Class 6 state semifinal at 10 a.m. against Ocean Lakes.
It’s not an ideal circumstance ahead of the program’s biggest game in 15 years, but coach Rob Hahne said earlier today that his club’s focus hasn’t been shaken.
“We are embracing it,” the coach said.
After escaping defending state champion West Springfield in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, rallying from a seventh-inning deficit and winning, 5-4, in walk-off fashion, Westfield turned its attention to the Region 6A champions. The Bulldogs enter the semifinal with a 12-game winning streak on the line and while seeking its first state championship game appearance since a 2004 team led by future Major Leaguers Justin Bour and Brandon Snyder advanced to the Group AAA final before falling to Western Branch.
The Dolphins (18-6), who have rallied behind the Virginia Beach community following last week’s mass shooting that left 12 people dead, beat Colonial Forge, 2-0, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals behind a four-hit shutout by Christopher Newport recruit Micah Singer.
Tomorrow, they’ll give the ball to either junior Noah Naas or senior Elias Negron against a Bulldogs lineup that is paced by two sophomores in Kevin Mackmin and outfielder Nick Lottchea, the Player of the Year in the Concorde District. Westfield could counter with Joe Clancy, who went just 69 pitches in his shortest outing of the season on Tuesday, but Hahne also could give the ball to senior Danny Leo or Lottchea. The trio have led a staff that has posted a VHSL record 16 shutouts this spring.
Ocean Lakes’ lineup is anchored by sophomore shortstop Carson DeMartini, a Virginia Tech recruit.
Tomorrow’s afternoon tilt will pit No. 2 Lake Braddock (24-3), the Region 6C champion, against Region 6B champion James River (20-3). The Rapids enter riding a 12-game winning streak behind their Virginia Military Institute-bound middle infield of Ty Swaim and Will Riley. Army recruit Connelly Early is unavailable after throwing 95 pitches while striking out eight over six innings in Tuesday’s 4-3 quarterfinal win over Cox, so junior Ryan Potes will likely start on the mound.
The Bruins, who held on for a 5-4 win over No. 4 Centreville on Tuesday, will counter with an explosive attack that averages 8.4 runs per game and has reached double-digit run totals in 12 contests. A lineup led by George Mason recruit Lyle Miller-Green and Marymount recruit Bobby Leitzel has demonstrated the ability to put games away with big innings. Lake Braddock has had 15 innings of five or more runs and has scored seven times or more in an inning on six occasions.
“We’re obviously not setting out with a plan of putting together nine or 10 runs in an inning,” Bruins coach John Thomas said. “A lot of our young guys have really improved their level of focus every time they step into the box. We just want to get as many guys as we can to the plate and keep grinding.”
Miller-Green, the region’s Player of the Year, went the distance on Tuesday and Thomas will likely give the ball to Jay Cassady. The junior lefty had one of his best starts of the season in a complete-game outing in Friday’s 9-5 win over West Springfield in the region final, and has also come up big at the plate recently with five hits over the past two games.
“I’m just super proud of our guys, and in particular of Jay,” Thomas said “That kid has really grinded to get to where he is.”
Cassady, or whoever gets the start, will look to avoid the early-game struggles that have plagued the Bruins’ staff. Thomas’ pitchers have allowed first-inning runs in 10 of their 27 games, and 22 of the 89 runs they have surrendered - 25 percent - were scored in the first frame.
State Semifinalists at a Glance:
James River Rapids
District: Bay Rivers
Head Coach: Bryan Hannum, 1st year
State Championships: 2007, 2008
State Runner-up: None
How Qualified: Region 6B champion
Runs Scored: 152 (6.61/game)
Runs Allowed: 67 (2.91/game)
Current Streak: Won 12
College Recruits: Jr. LHP Connelly Early (Army); Sr. OF James Maccabe (Averett); Jr. SS Will Riley (VMI); Jr. 2B Ty Swaim (VMI); Sr. C Dean Vencil (Sewanee)
Lake Braddock Bruins
Head Coach: John Thomas, 1st year
State Championships: 2012
State Runner-up: 1988, 1993, 1997
How Qualified: Region 6C champion
Runs Scored: 227 (8.41/game)
Runs Allowed: 89 (3.30/game)
Current Streak: Won 5
College Recruits: Sr. RHP/OF Lyle Miller-Green (George Mason); Sr. SS Bobby Leitzel (Marymount); Sr. RHP Noah Adcock-Howeth (Mary Washington)
Ocean Lakes Dolphins
Located: Virginia Beach
Head Coach: Pete Zell, 5th year
State Championships: None
State Runner-up: 2001
How Qualified: Region 6A champion
Runs Scored: 142 (5.92/game)
Runs Allowed: 92 (3.83/game)
Current Streak: Won 6
College Recruits: So. SS Carson DeMartini (Virginia Tech); Sr. RHP Micah Singer (Christopher Newport); Sr. RHP Noah Kucenski (Wilson); Sr. 2B/RHP Elias Negron (Caldwell)
Head Coach: Rob Hahne, 6th year
State Championships: None
State Runner-up: 2004
How Qualified: Region 6D champion
Runs Scored: 176 (6.77/game)
Runs Allowed: 46 (1.77/game)
Current Streak: Won 12
College Recruits: Sr. RHP Joe Clancy (Maryland-Baltimore County)
Class 6 State Tournament:
Seeds (records entering states)
Region 6A: #1 Ocean Lakes (17-6), #2 Cox (18-5)
Region 6B: #1 James River (19-3), #2 Colonial Forge (16-8)
Region 6C: #1 Lake Braddock (23-3), #2 West Springfield (14-11)
Region 6D: #1 Westfield (22-3), #2 Centreville (18-8)
Quarterfinals (Tuesday, June 4)
Game #1: Westfield 5, West Springfield 4
Game #2: Ocean Lakes 2, Colonial Forge 0
Game #3: Lake Braddock 5, Centreville 4
Game #4: James River 4, Cox 3
Semifinals (Friday, June 7)
Game #5: Westfield vs. Ocean Lakes at Deep Run, 10:00
Game #6: Lake Braddock vs. James River at Deep Run, 2:00
Championship Game (Saturday, June 8)
Game #7: G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner at Deep Run, 12:30
Photos of Lake Braddock coach John Thomas, left, and Westfield coach Rob Hahne, right, by Fred Ingham