In their season-opener on March 20 against Stone Bridge, the Madison baseball team escaped with an extra-innings win, 3-2. It was a shaky start for the nationally-ranked Warhawks, who needed extra innings to beat two of their first three Northern Region opponents on the young season. Since then, the Warhawks have allowed an average of 1.14 runs per game against Northern Region opponents, including a 10-1 win over Stone Bridge on Saturday.
“The opener is always hard to judge for any team. We sure didn’t play our best game – not to take anything away from them. They stuck around and came up and tied it late in the game,” said Madison head coach Mark Gjormand of the team’s first game against Stone Bridge. “We are a much better team than we were a week ago and a much better team than we were a month ago.”
The Warhawks got on the board early against Stone Bridge's starting pitcher Michael Palmer, with three two-out hits in the bottom of the first inning, capped by a three-run home run by senior shortstop Richie Conlon.
Palmer, filling in the starting rotation for injured sophomore right-hander Nick Faldini, who is suffering from tendonitis in his shoulder, was coming off a seven-inning stretch where he allowed only one hit and struck out 16.
The Warhawks keyed in on Palmer and relief pitcher Ty Weaver, however, putting eight runs on the board in the first three innings.
“[Palmer] has really stepped up with Nick going down,” said Stone Bridge head coach Sam Plank. “But he got roughed up real good against Madison. We hit four guys and walked three. That gave them seven free passes. When you walk guys and you give up the long ball, they are going to pile up runs in a hurry.”
The Bulldogs, trailing 4-0 in the top of the third, got a run off of a two-out Jeron Gouveia RBI single but were unable to bring another run across in the inning, with Madison starting pitcher Jesse Jeter striking out the Bulldogs’ Brian Wheaton with runners on second and third.
“That is a killer because one base hit and you cut it to 4-3. It can change the whole course of the game,” said Plank.
The Bulldogs were unable piece together any more offense against Jeter, as the junior right-hander allowed four hits in seven innings, striking out two.
“Jesse Jeter did a tremendous job on the mound for us,” said Gjormand. “We are just real pleased with what he does every night.”
Madison, the Liberty District frontrunners, remain undefeated in the Northern Region, with their one loss on the year coming to Olympia High School of Orlando, FL, over Spring Break.
For Gjormand, the Warhawks’ national ranking has not put any added pressure on the squad.
“For the kids, it is not as big a deal anymore. It is nice and they are proud of it and they want to be the best program in the country, but they know that for that to happen, they have to take care of business every night out,” he said. “We really take it one day at a time – not to sound cliché. We don’t even talk about the teams that we are playing, every team has a number. Every game has a number.”
THE BULLDOGS (5-3 district record, 9-5 overall) remain in third place in the Liberty District with the loss, behind Madison and Langley.
“Right now it is Madison, Langley and us,” said Plank. “If you finished in second [in the district], it is like winning the district because you get that automatic berth in region tournament, so we are still right in the mix. We still have to take care of business. We control our own destiny.”
The Bulldogs, who have already beaten Langley earlier in the year, will host the Saxons on May 8 in Ashburn.
NOTE: Gjormand has learned that Madison right-hander Sam Glibert will miss the remainder of the season with an ACL injury. The senior, who will play for the University of Pennsylvania next year, went 5-0 last year as a junior with a 1.04 ERA.