June 16 - The fifth annual NOVA Nine Team, sponsored by The St. James in Springfield, has been announced and its headlined this year by Coach of the Year John Thomas and Player of the Year Lyle Miller-Green.
Thomas and Miller-Green, along with NOVA Nine selection Bobby Leitzel, led Lake Braddock to the VHSL Class 6 state championship last week. The Bruins won 26 games - tied for the third-most in Northern Virginia public school history - and won the Region 6C championship before going on to claim the second state title in program history.
Joining Miller-Green and Leitzel on the team are Stafford’s Mike Tolson, who led Stafford to the Class 5 state title, as well as Battlefield’s Zach Agnos, Westfield’s Joe Clancy and Nick Lottchea, Colgan’s Ryley Johnson, Potomac’s Braden Mack and Potomac Falls’ Nate Savino.
The Coach of the Year and players selected to the NOVA Nine Team are chosen from the magazine’s 41-member selection committee consisting of head coaches and media members from our coverage area of 85 high schools in Northern Virginia.
Here is a look at each member of this year’s team:
Coach of the Year
John Thomas, Lake Braddock - Led the Bruins (26-3) to the second state championship in program history in his first season at the helm after spending the previous four seasons as the pitching coach under former skipper Jody Rutherford. Lake Braddock won its first seven games, had a nine-game winning streak before falling to West Springfield in the Patriot District final, then rebounded to win its final seven games - avenging the loss to the Spartans in the Region 6C final, then dispatching of Centreville, James River and Westfield to win the Class 6 state title. Thomas is 134-56 in his eight seasons as a high school coach.
Player of the Year
Lyle Miller-Green, Senior, Lake Braddock - Posted a monster season at the plate and on the mound while leading the Bruins to the Region 6C and Class 6 state championships. Was named the Player of the Year in the Patriot District, Region 6C and on The Washington Post’s All-Met Team, hitting .435 with a .592 on-base percentage, 39 hits - 21 that went for extra bases - along with an area-high 12 home runs, 28 RBI and 39 runs. Miller-Green was hit by a pitch 14 times and walked 20 times, 12 of those intentionally. Finished with a program-record 20 career homers. On the mound, he went 6-0 with five saves, a 1.24 ERA and 91 strikeouts to 27 walks in 56.1 innings. Will play at George Mason University.
Zach Agnos, Senior, Battlefield - A returning member from the 2018 NOVA Nine Team, Agnos was named the Player of the Year in the Cedar Run District and Region 6D. He hit .423 with 30 hits, eight doubles, two home runs and 23 RBI and was 7-3 with a 1.78 ERA and 67 strikeouts and 19 walks in 55 innings. A four-year starter who eclipsed 100 career hits and he will follow his brother Jake, a two-time NOVA Nine selection and the 2016 Player of the Year, in playing at East Carolina University.
Joe Clancy, Senior, Westfeld - The ace for a staff that combined for a state-record 16 shutouts, Clancy finished 9-1 with a save, a 0.85 ERA and 114 strikeouts to 29 walks in 65.2 innings and earned Region 6D Pitcher of the Year honors. He also hit .318 with a .511 on-base percentage, four home runs and 18 RBI as the Bulldogs won the Concorde District and region championships and advanced to the Class 6 state final. Will pitch at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.
Ryley Johnson, Junior, Colgan - One of the state’s best defensive outfielders, Johnson hit .463 with a .610 on-base percentage, 31 hits, 32 runs, eight extra-base hits, 19 RBI and 40 stolen bases en route to Cardinal District Player of the Year and first-team All-Region 6C honors. He also went 2-1 with a save, a 0.33 ERA and 37 strikeouts to six walks in 20.1 innings. Has committed to play at East Carolina University.
Bobby Leitzel, Senior, Lake Braddock - The Robin to Lyle Miller-Green’s Batman, the left-handed swinging shortstop slid seamlessly into the middle of the Bruins’ lineup as they won Region 6C and Class 6 state championships. Leitzel hit .413 with a .465 on-base percentage, an area-high 43 hits, 25 runs, seven triples, 31 RBI and 21 stolen bases to earn first-team All-Region 6C honors. Will play at Marymount University.
Nick Lottchea, Sophomore, Westfield - Exploded onto the scene this spring, excelling as the Bulldogs’ leadoff man, defensive anchor in center field and No. 2 starter on a staff that set a state record with 16 shutouts. Lottchea, the Concorde District Player of the Year and a first-team All-Region 6D selection, stuffed the stat sheet both at the plate and on the mound. He hit .422 with a .505 on-base percentage, 35 hits, 10 doubles, two home runs, 27 RBI, 26 runs and 12 steals and the southpaw was 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA and 42 strikeouts to 15 walks in 43.1 innings as Westfield won its first district title since 2010 and region title since 2004 before falling to Lake Braddock in the Class 6 state final.
Braden Mack, Junior, Potomac - After his older brother, Brody, earned NOVA Nine Team honors last year, it was the versatile younger brother’s turn to emerge this spring. The Panthers’ catcher hit .449 with a .542 on-base percentage, 31 hits, five doubles, 25 RBI and 26 runs for the Cardinal District champions. When not behind the plate, he took the mound and went 6-1 with a save, a 0.79 ERA and 47 strikeouts to just seven walks in 35 innings. Was a first-team All-Region 5D selection.
Nate Savino, Junior, Potomac Falls - A returning member of the NOVA Nine Team, the left-hander picked up where he left off last spring by striking out 18 in a one-hitter against Riverside in his first start this season. He’d finish 3-2 with a 0.60 ERA and 71 strikeouts to just nine walks in 35 innings before being shut down to be rested for a summer that will be spent with the USA Baseball U-18 National Team and in Major League Baseball’s Prospect Development Pipeline League. Virginia’s Gatorade State Player of the Year also hit .353 with a .460 on-base percentage 26 hits, 10 extra-base hits, eight RBI and 20 runs. Has committed to pitch for the University of Virginia.
Mike Tolson, Senior, Stafford - The Indians’ ace led his team to Region 5D and Class 5 state championships, going 10-0 with a 1.55 ERA and 94 strikeouts with 43 walks in 77 innings. Tolson was named the Commonwealth District Player of the Year and a first-team all-region selection. Played third base when not on the mound, hitting .198 with a .287 on-base percentage, 17 hits and 16 RBI. Will play at Western Carolina University.
Sponsor: The 2019 NOVA Nine Team is sponsored by The St. James Sports, Wellness and Entertainment Complex in Springfield. For more information, visit www.thestjames.co.
Photos of players by Fred Ingham