When Oakton stumbled to a loss against Westfield in last year's Concorde District tournament finals, Cougars coach Chris Jarboe pointed to his team's "lack of focus" as its downfall.
That same lack of focus — perhaps the result of the recent rainfall which postponed games for nearly a week — appeared last Thursday as the top-seeded Cougars fell behind second-seed Westfield 2-0 in the first inning of this year's tournament finals.
"We haven't really played since last Thursday [against Centreville]," said Jarboe, whose team beat Centreville in the tournament's semifinal round on May 19. "I didn't expect us to come out as flat as we did."
Oakton's sub-standard play, however, didn't last long. After plating a run in the third inning to cut Westfield's lead to 2-1, the Cougars scored three runs in the fourth and three more in the sixth to claim a 7-2 victory over the Bulldogs.
Westfield, which defeated Chantilly last Thursday afternoon prior to playing in the championship game, was undone by a lack of hitting and costly errors down the stretch.
"We only got two hits, all in the first," said Ferington, who said his team had not practiced outside since May 21. That's what is frustrating. You hit for four days [in the batting cages] and you come out here and only get four hits in two games."
FACING THE DISTRICT'S top pitcher in Oakton junior Jesse McCarrick, Westfield's bats came out strong in the first inning.
Lead-off hitter Lindsay Dutton reached base on a catcher-interference call and later reached second on a single by Charlotte Pirro. The Bulldogs then made the score 1-0 after Carolyn Jones reached base after a dropped throw by Oakton first baseman Mandy Conlon. Jarboe would challenge the error, claiming Jones had interfered with Conlon's attempted catch, but the coach's challenge would be denied.
Karen Tucker later added a two-out RBI single to put Westfield ahead 2-0 after the top of the first.
"Jesse came off after the first inning and said, 'I wasn't ready to go, my fault,'" Jarboe said.
McCarrick would settled down over the remainder of the game, allowing no hits over the final six innings. Oakton's offense, meanwhile, found its way against Westfield starting pitcher Lauren Monk, who was making just her third start of the season in place of Linda Pirro.
Jen Francis made the score 2-1 in the bottom of the third with an RBI single to right field. An inning later, the Cougars would go ahead 4-2, scoring a run on a bunt by Brittni Owens and two runs on Westfield fielding errors.
Ferington said he couldn't explain his team's woes on defense.
"We played great defense in the first game," Ferington said. "The ball is hit to you, field it and catch it. It's not that hard."
Conlon's two-run double to left field highlighted Oakton's three-run sixth.
Earning the district's top-seed in the Northern Region playoffs, Conlon said her team learned from its mistakes after a pedestrian first inning.
"I think we were expecting them to be tired after the first game, so I don't think we took it seriously as we should have," Conlon said. "You've got to expect that from a district final."