In 2019 Occoquan vs. Northern Region Baseball Challenge, It's Advantage North

December 1 - Once grouped in the same region under the former Virginia High School League alignment, the Class 6 schools from Fairfax and Arlington counties and the City of Alexandria are split in half under the current format. For the second year, those 20 teams will face each other in a seeded competition, the 2019 Occoquan vs. Northern Region Baseball Challenge.

Organized by Chantilly coach Kevin Ford, the Challenge will be held on Friday, Mar. 15 and Tuesday, Mar. 19. The first round of games will be hosted by teams from Region 6C, or the Occoquan Region, with the second round being held by teams from Region 6D, or the Northern Region.

Five teams from Fairfax and Arlington counties - Hayfield, Justice and West Potomac from Region 6C, and Herndon and Marshall from Region 6D - nor the Class 6 teams from Prince William County are participating.

Matchups were set based on results of a coaches poll, with the goal of creating two competitive non-district games for each team. The format calls for the following seeds to face each other - 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4, 5 vs. 6, 7 vs. 8, and 9 vs. 10 - each playing one game at home and one on the road.

2019 Occoquan vs. Northern Region Challenge:

Friday, Mar. 15 (hosted by Occoquan teams): #1 Madison at #1 West Springfield; #2 Chantilly at #2 Lake Braddock; #3 Centreville at #3 Robinson; #4 McLean at #4 W.T. Woodson; #5 Oakton at #5 South County; #6 South Lakes at #6 Fairfax; #7 Westfield at #7 T.C. Williams; #8 Yorktown at #8 Hayfield; #9 Langley at #9 Annandale; #10 Washington-Lee at #10 Mount Vernon

Tuesday, Mar. 19 (hosted by Northern teams): #2 Lake Braddock at #1 Madison; #1 West Springfield at #2 Chantilly; #4 W.T. Woodson at #3 Centreville; #3 Robinson at #4 McLean; #6 Fairfax at #5 Oakton; #5 South County at #6 South Lakes; #8 Hayfield at #7 Westfield; #7 T.C. Williams at #8 Yorktown; #10 Mount Vernon at #9 Langley; #9 Annandale at #10 Washington-Lee

What to Watch For: Chantilly will have a chance for some redemption when it hosts West Springfield, which knocked the Chargers out of the Class 6 state tournament en route to the school’s fourth state title. … Based on the seeding, participating coaches feel Madison won’t miss a beat as it seeks a seventh straight league title after graduating NOVA Nine Player of the Year Kyle Novak along with second-team all-state third baseman Nate Leas and co-ace Jake Nielsen. Two early tests against West Springfield and Lake Braddock will lend some indication as to whether the high expectations are merited. … Robinson could have one of the area’s deeper lineups, and would provide a good test for Centreville’s big right-hander, Hunter Bell, whose ability to consistently work deep into games will be key to the Wildcats’ success in 2019. … Five teams will be breaking in first-year coaches: Lake Braddock’s John Thomas, Robinson’s Mike Gallagher, South County’s Scott Nelson, Langley’s Jared Sronce and Washington-Lee’s Kevin Healy. Mount Vernon’s Jeff Fleetwood will be in his first full season after serving in an interim capacity for the second half last spring.

Best Potential Pitching Matchup: Lake Braddock’s Lyle Miller-Green vs. Madison’s Matt Howat - The early season showdown area baseball fans deserve, though both hurlers would likely be on a pitch count with winter barely in the rear view mirror. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Miller-Green was the Patriot District’s Pitcher of the Year in 2017 and is bound for George Mason as a two-way player. Howat, one of the area’s top left-handers, was the Concorde District’s Pitcher of the Year last spring and will pitch at William & Mary.

Mag’s Prediction: Even without region powers Battlefield or Patriot participating, Region 6D (the Northern Region) looks to be deeper. That’s especially the case on the mound, where Madison (Howat), Chantilly (Dylan Siesky), Centreville (Bell) and Oakton (Seth Richards) will roll out senior arms that have signed with Division I programs. We’ll say Northern 12, Occoquan 8.

Pictured, from left, are Westfield’s Joe Clancy, Madison’s Ethan Lipp, Annandale’s Danny Salisbury and West Springfield’s Alec Reilly. Photos by Fred Ingham and Albert Jacquez and courtesy of Annandale Baseball.