McLean Rallies in 7th, Beats No. 8 Stafford for 2nd “Let’s Play Two” Title in 4 Years

April 18 - McLean scored five of its six runs with two outs in the top of the seventh inning en route to an 11-9 comeback win over No. 8 Stafford yesterday afternoon in the Eddie Hope “Let’s Play Two” championship game at C.D. Hylton.

The Highlanders trailed, 9-5, entering the inning and were down to their last out after Ben Piper’s sacrifice fly cut their deficit to 9-6. Then the improbable happened.

Shortstop Tio Graybill singled to load the bases, and freshman Griffin Stieg singled in a run to cut the Indians’ lead to 9-7. Stafford reliever Tristan McAlister then got first baseman Anthony Luu to hit a ground ball to second baseman Kazuya Jordan, but he misplayed it to allow another run to score. With the bases still loaded, the tying run came in when second baseman Jackson Kantor was hit by a pitch, and the go-ahead runs scored when center fielder Anthony Farmakides’ ground ball was booted by third baseman Jimmy Baker.

Kantor, who came on in relief after Griffin Stieg kept McLean in the game by allowing two unearned runs in four innings of relief, hit two batters and walked another one to load the bases with one out. But he’d get center fielder Elijah Lambros to pop out and shortstop Tucker Sullivan to fly out to earn the save and give the Highlanders their second title at tournament title in four years.

The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak by Stafford (12-2), which was coming off a comeback win of its own in Tuesday’s semifinals, when the Indians rallied from a 6-0 deficit to hand Brentsville District its first loss.

“We’ve been a pitching and defense team in past years. We knew if we took care of the ball on defense we could win games 3-1 and 4-2,” McLean coach John Dowling said. “We’re a little different this year. We can still pitch and play defense, but we also have the ability to score runs in bunches.”

Since dropping four straight to fall to 1-4 on Mar. 29, McLean (9-5) has done exactly that. The Highlanders have averaged 7.8 runs while winning eight of their last nine. Over the four games at the tournament, they had 47 hits and scored 34 runs. Yesterday, they had six players with multi-hit games, led by Luu’s three.

Drew Stieg earned tournament Most Valuable Player honors after going 8-for-14 with two walks, five runs and five RBI and his younger brother, Griffin, was 9-for-15 with seven runs, three RBI and two key relief appearances. Kantor (.450), Drew Stieg (.432), Luu (.419) and Griffin Stieg (.404) are all batting over .400 this season and Farmakides -  who went 7-for-16 with a homer and six RBI at the tournament - has a team-high 16 RBI.

“At the top of the lineup, everyone has the ability to hit the ball to the gap, and the guys at the bottom of the lineup are grinding out at-bats,” Dowling said. “The past two weeks we’ve started to figure it out, and when our pitching and defense are just good, we’re going to be in a good position to win games.

Notes: Of the 32 games at the tournament, 10 were decided by one run or went into extra innings … Caleb McAlister had a second straight three-hit game and finished the tournament, while Lambros had a third-straight two-hit game and finished 7-for-16 with five runs and four steals over the Indians’ four games … In a consolation game yesterday, Colonial Forge coach Dave Colangelo led his team to a 7-3 win over his older brother’s team, Colgan. The two are the only brothers currently serving as head coaches at Northern Virginia schools.

All-Tournament Team: McLean’s Drew Steig (MVP), Anthony Farmakides, Griffin Steig and Jackson Kantor; Stafford’s Tucker Sullivan, Elijah Lambros, Joe Tolson and Mike Tolson; Brentsville District’s Vince DiMauro and Billy Hoad; Rock Ridge’s Felix Carson and Brandon Clarke; Potomac’s Braeden Mack and Josue Cumba; Kettle Run’s Joe Vogatsky; Colgan’s Brandon Cassedy

Yesterday’s Results:
Potomac 10, Mountain View 0
C.D. Hylton 9, T.C. Williams 5
Kettle Run 8, Osbourn Park 6
Marshall 7, Woodbridge 3
Fauquier 5, Edison 3
Colonial Forge 7, Colgan 3
3rd Place Game: Brentsville District 4, Rock Ridge 2
Championship Game: McLean 11, Stafford 9

Photo of McLean’s Tio Graybill by Joey Kamide