By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
For a time last Friday, it felt as though the underdog T.C. Williams baseball team might well spring another upset, this time over Madison High School in the first round of the Virginia High School League’s 6A North regional tournament.
The No. 4-seeded Titans went up 1-0 early in the first inning, as senior outfielder Nick Roda scored on an error by Warhawks pitcher Brian Eckert. The top-seeded hosts looked shaky defensively, as T.C. loaded the bases in the top of the first and got on the scoreboard against a home side that entered the game with an overall record of 18-5 and on the back of a district title the previous week.
T.C. looked very strong on defense, led by pitcher Andrew Tovsky. Stepping up to be the team’s primary pitcher after a back injury to senior Brandon Beck, Tovsky managed to pitch around a strong Madison lineup and also get himself out of some jams. On two occasions, in the bottom of the second and then the bottom of the third innings, the tying run got on base, but each time he managed to escape the inning unscathed with a combination of strikeouts and fly balls to the outfield.
But as the game wore on, Eckert started to dominate, and in the bottom of the fourth things went south for the Titans. Bryan Harthun hit an RBI single to score Jimmy Goldsmith and tie the game for Madison, then Matt Favero hit a 2-run single of his own to plate Harthun and Wiley Counts. With the score now 3-1 Madison, a wild pitch that skirted away from Titans catcher Grayson Beasley allowed Zach Silverman to score, giving the home side a 4-1 advantage.
The following inning, Kyle Novak hit an RBI single to make it 5-1, and then in the bottom of the sixth Harthun got things rolling with a solo home run over the right field fence. Daniel Gerke added onto the lead with an RBI single in the same inning, then Owen Socher’s sacrifice fly tacked on a further run. The hosts completed their run-scoring as Gerke reached on another wild pitch, and the 9-1 margin was too much for the Titans to overcome.
It was a sad end to T.C.’s season, after a surprise win in their own district tournament propeled them into regionals and moved them closer to an improbable run to the 6A state championship. They entered the Patriot Conference tournament with the No. 7 seed after a regular season record of 6-13-1, and found themselves facing No. 2 seed Annandale in the first round, a team to whom they lost both home and away during league play.
But the Titans managed to shrug off a rain delay to beat the Atoms 5-4 in eight innings, a surprising result on the surface but one the T.C. players said they felt they had a good chance of achieving, especially having beaten No. 1 conference seed Lake Braddock 2-1 at home earlier in the season. They lost in the semifinals of the district tournament to South County, but took immense confidence from the win over Annandale.
The loss to Madison means the end of the season for T.C., led by new head coach Chris Metz. Metz, who took over a program that had recently struggled, came into the job emphasizing that his team should be like a “family” — trusting each other on and off the diamond and playing hard for one another.
At first glance, their record was disappointing, but it included a number of close losses, while the result against top-seeded Lake Braddock gave them real cause for optimism. Metz said he saw this season as a stepping-stone, especially with so many freshmen and sophomores on
the roster and a number having been brought up from the junior varsity side for the regional tournament.
Throughout the season, plenty of underclassmen have starred for the Titans, including center fielder Ben Wilson and second baseman Sam Wingfield, both of whom are freshmen. Combined with the likes of Tovsky, a junior, and sophomore first baseman Stephen Gerade, there are plenty of young players on the T.C. roster who should be with the team for years to come.
After their performance in this year’s postseason, they should be full of confidence moving into next season. Having had a taste of success, they have been left wanting more, and are determined to make sure that their successes this year are repeated.