August 4 - Much like Fairfax County was for much of 1990s, Hampton Roads was for the following decade and the Richmond area was at the end of the 2000s, Loudoun County has become the biggest hotbed for baseball talent in Virginia.
Do other areas have arguments? Sure. But the state’s third-largest county - with a population of just under 410,000 - can provide the best case. And I don’t think it’s even really close.
Since 2014, six teams from the county have reached high school state championship games. Loudoun Valley won the 3A title in 2014 and returned to the final the following spring. Stone Bridge won a 5A title in 2015, and Ashburn rival Briar Woods won it two years later. Riverside, which was the county’s 14th and newest school until Independence opens its doors later this month, advanced to the 3A final in 2017 and the Class 4 final this past spring.
The county’s prep success doesn’t end there. Both Loudoun-based districts, the Dulles and Potomac, are as deep as any in the state. Nine of the 14 teams in those leagues had winning campaigns this past spring. Seven of Loudoun’s 14 schools have made state tournament appearances in the past five years.
Leesburg Post 34 continually fields one of the top American Legion programs in the state, and two years ago won a regional championship and played in the World Series. They play their home games at one of my favorite places to watch a game, Fireman’s FIeld in Purcellville.
Travel and showcase ball has become the rage this decade, and the Diamond Elite program has quickly become one of the most-respected on the recruiting circuit. They’ve won numerous tournaments and have helped develop several collegiate players.
At the professional level, two Ashburn natives have pitched in the Major Leagues in the past few years in Broad Run graduates Conor Mullee and Taylor Clarke. A third, J.B. Bukauskas, was the 15th overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft and if he’s not called up this September, chances are pretty good he’ll crack the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 25-man roster next year. He could one day join Clarke in Arizona’s rotation.
Loudoun may very well produce another first-round pick next June, when many expect Potomac Falls left-hander Nate Savino to be the first prep southpaw off the board. This year, Woodgrove’s big right-hander, Nick Lockhart, was the only area high schooler to be picked when he was taken in the 12th round and he signed with the Texas Rangers.
And then there’s the little guys, who certainly don’t play small.
Loudoun South Little League’s American All-Stars repeated as state champions last month and will play on national television tomorrow night attempting to get back to the Southeast Region championship game for a second straight year. They’re attempting to become Virginia’s first team to advance to the World Series since Central Springfield in 1994.
For me, that would be the closing argument. Case closed.