By Jim McElhatton (Photo/Sawyer McElhatton)
High school baseball season kicked off in Alexandria on Tuesday evening with a classic pitchers’ duel between Bishop Ireton and St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, the first matchup in the annual city baseball championship.
After a snowy early March, the game marked the first time on the field for many players, though the bats were still a bit cold.
Led by pitcher Kyle Delaney, who had a no-hitter going through five innings, visiting Ireton won 2-0 after clutch late-inning hitting and a sacrifice bunt put runners into scoring position. The Cardinals got two players across home plate in the fifth inning, and junior Seth Scalsky went 2 for 3 for Ireton.
“I felt good from the time we got here,” Delaney said after his complete game shutout. “The plan was to just throw strikes and get ahead in the count.”
The senior finished the game in just 87 pitches. But for most of the contest, Saints pitcher Ben Frerichs kept pace with his rival. Frerichs is a known commodity around town, having tossed a gem in last year’s championship to beat T.C. Williams.
“He’s one of those seniors I talk about when I talk about leadership,” Saints coach Jim Supple said. “He took the game ball for us and did an outstanding job taking us deep in the game and keeping his pitch count down.”
The outcome of this year’s tournament remains to be seen, as T.C. has yet to play. But Tuesday’s win marked the first victory for Ireton under its new skipper, Rex Thomas, a longtime coach in Woodbridge who played at Washington-Lee.
The only thing holding him back from taking the job when he got the offer was missing a few more of his son’s college games. But when Thomas checked with his son, the young ballplayer told his father he’d be crazy not to take the job. And so he made the leap.
So far, Thomas likes what he sees from his team, including some intangibles that don’t turn up in the box score.
“They’ve come together faster as a team than any team I’ve seen,” he said. “Sometimes you get guys who don’t get along, but these guys are like family. They have their own team meetings everyday, and if somebody’s late, they make them run laps on their own.”
And as happy as Thomas was about Delaney’s outstanding performance, he was equally pleased with the fact that his team committed no errors in their first game of the year.
Supple also gave credit to Delaney while saying the Saints got beat but didn’t beat themselves with mistakes.
“It was the first time being on the field, and we had a lot of things we needed to see,” he said. “It was a good baseball game and they did a few more things than we did, but I’m very excited about the team we have. It’s a small team in terms of numbers, but we’ve got some very good players.”