By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
On the T.C. Williams baseball team this season, just two seniors, one junior and two sophomores have prior varsity experience in the sport. Despite that lack of playing time, head coach Chris Metz said he remains upbeat about his team’s chances of springing some surprises.
“I can’t wait for us to put it all together, because a lot of people don’t think of T.C. Williams as a strong baseball program,” Metz said. “But we’re getting there. It’s part of the process and one day, people are going to start talking about T.C. Williams.”
But it has not been the most auspicious of starts for the Titans, who were 0-4 Tuesday after two games at home and the first two of a three-game spring break tour of North Carolina. It began with a 4-3 defeat at home against St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes, followed by a 9-0 home loss to Lake Braddock.
After traveling to North Carolina, the Titans lost 7-1 against Northern Durham, and then dropped a close game 5-4 against Voyager at Jack Coombs Field, the home of Duke University. T.C. completed its road trip Tuesday, after the Times’ deadline.
Against Lake Braddock on March 17, T.C.’s offense struggled against Bruins starting pitcher Wade Strain, who threw 4 scoreless innings and gave up 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out seven batters. Against each of the first seven batters he faced, Strain threw a fastball for a strike with the first pitch, and Metz said that enabled him to command the strike zone from then on.
“That’s just us not being aggressive, it’s letting him command the strike zone instead of us commanding as hitters,” Metz said. “It’s something we’ve got to work on. We’re a very young team, but hats off to them. Lake Braddock did what they’re supposed to do tonight.”
For T.C., Elon University commit Andrew Tovsky started on the mound and gave up 5 runs over 5 innings. Senior Benjamin Ehrman and freshman Evan Waldner also pitched an inning each against the Bruins, the defending Patriot Conference champions.
Metz emphasized that it is still early days for the Titans, who have a tough schedule ahead of them for the rest of the season, but already have been working hard.
“We’ve had some good practices,” he said. “Last night [against St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes] we played well, [but] things didn’t shake out for us. Tonight, at times we looked great. At times, we don’t execute what we’re supposed to do; we’re not paying attention to detail. That’s what it came down to tonight. But other than that, guys are working their butts off, they worked hard in the offseason.”
Metz said the trip to North Carolina was about more than just results on the field for the Titans, but a way to prepare for what promises to be a tough season against strong teams. It was also a journey home for the second-year coach, a North Carolina native who took his team to play against his old high school coach and other individuals he knows from his time in the state.
“We’re going down there to play hard; we’re down there to win games. We’re down there to get better,” Metz said. “But we’re also down there to come together as a team. My guys are pretty close to each other, I think getting away from Northern Virginia and getting away and just being us, it’s going to bring us a lot closer together. That can turn a lot of things around.”
Last season offered a tantalizing prospect of the young Titans’ potential. In Metz’s first season as head coach, No. 7-seeded T.C. beat No. 2 Annandale 5-4 in the first round of the Patriot Conference tournament. The Titans lost 9-1 to eventual state champions Madison in the first round of the Virginia High School League’s 6A North regional tournament. The experience gave Metz plenty of hope for 2016.
“I’ve been super excited about our team since about 7 p.m. on May 29 when we finished our season last year,” Metz said. “We’re on the verge of that. I’m very excited, my coaching staff is very excited. We’ve just got to get over some things real quick, get over the hump.”