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Hunter, Saxons Shut Down Loudoun Valley

Junior pitcher tosses no-hitter in shortened five-inning baseball game.

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The Langley baseball team is off to a fast start this spring. The Saxons, going into this week, had wins over Loudoun County, T.C. Williams, Centreville and Loudoun Valley.

Barrett Hunter, as an important player on Langley’s breakthrough boys’ basketball team last winter, was a key guard who helped the Saxons reach the Northern Region finals and qualify for the state AAA playoffs for the first time in school history.

This spring, he is hoping some of that wintertime success carries over into Langley’s baseball team.

"I hope we get [to states] in baseball," said Hunter, a junior pitcher/outfielder. "I think the whole school is [charged] by the basketball success."

Of the moment in particular that he will never forget from the past basketball season, Hunter recalled the euphoria of defeating local rival McLean in the Liberty District tournament championship game.

"I just remember going up and cutting down the net [after] the district championship game," he said. "That’s what I’m feeding [my baseball] teammates now, that it’s the best feeling in the world."

Hunter and Langley baseball are off to a promising start this season. Following last Saturday’s non-district, 10-0 win over host Loudoun Valley at Fireman’s Park in Purcellville, the Saxons held an early season record of 4-2.

And, oh by the way, Hunter led Langley to Saturday’s win over the Vikings by tossing a no-hitter in the 10-run mercy rule-shortened (five innings) game.

Hunter, the Saxons’ No. 3 starter who is also likely to serve as the team’s relief closer out of the bullpen, totally controlled the Loudoun Valley bats throughout the afternoon contest, played in windy, cool temperatures. In the compete-game (five innings) outing, the 6-foot-2 inch right hander struck out eight batters (six looking at third called strikes), walked two and hit two batters. Only two balls were hit out of the infield, both of those being routine, fly ball outs to left fielder Graham Dubow in the first and fifth innings, respectively. Hunter coaxed three groundball outs and retired one Valley hitter when he was called out for stepping out of the batter’s box on a bunt attempt.

Of the Vikings’ four base runners in the game, only one made it as far as second base. Another was thrown out by catcher Geremy Mahn trying to steal second base in the second inning.

All in all, Hunter, making his second start of the season, was near the top of his game as he relied mostly on his fastball.

"We didn’t throw much off-speed," said Hunter, who hit the strike zone corners effectively throughout the afternoon. "I threw inside and outside. Mahn works great behind the plate and coach [Jeff Ferrell] did a great job calling pitches."

Hunter said he did not really think about the no-hit bid until there were two outs in Loudoun Valley’s final at-bats in the fifth inning. The Saxons had scored four runs in the top of the fifth to go ahead 10-0 and bring the mercy rule into play. So, with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Hunter knew he was within one out of a no-hitter. And he got that final out when Valley No. 9 hitter Thomas Moxley flied out to left field.

"I realized [I had a no-hitter] when we had two outs in the last inning," said Hunter. "I was thinking, `I don’t think anybody has a hit.’"

Mahn, the Saxons; junior backstop, said Hunter had a live fastball and was hitting his spots.

"He pitched unbelievable," said Mahn, who contributed to Langley’s offensive output with a two-run double and a run-scoring single in the win. "He threw low and hard strikes and also had a good change-up to go along with his fastball."

<b>FERRELL</b>, the Saxons’ head coach, said the only area in which Hunter appeared to struggle was in getting ahead of the count. Hunter threw first-pitch strikes to just seven of the 17 hitters he faced, meaning he was often working behind in the count.

"But for him to come back from those situations attests to his character," said Ferrell. "Nothing phases him. He’s got a good two-seam [fastball], works good on both sides of the plate and has a good change-up."

In Hunter’s only other start this season, he pitched two shutout innings, allowing no hits, in a Langley win over T.C. Williams. He said he left that game early because of arm soreness.

Last Friday night, Langley defeated Jefferson, 17-6. In that game, Hunter played right field and made several throws from the outfield. As a result, he was not sure how his arm would be when he was called upon to start the following day against Valley.

"I was a little nervous about it," he said. "But I started pitching and I was good."

Langley’s offense knocked around 10 hits against Loudoun Valley. The Saxons scored a run in the top of the first inning on an RBI groundout by clean-up hitter Eddie Gonzalez to go up 1-0. That was still the score before Langley broke the game wide open with five runs in the fourth inning and four more in the fifth.

Big hitting games for the Saxons came from shortstop Foster Dunigan (double, walk, 2 runs), Gonzalez (two, run-scoring singles, 3 RBI), third baseman Mike Klein (3 hits, including a triple, and two RBI) and second baseman Jack Mclindon (RBI single).

Klein, a senior, has been red-hot at the plate for Langley. He had four hits in the win over Jefferson, including a home run and a double. Following the Valley game, Klein, who was the No. 7 hitter in the Saxons’ batting order against the Vikings, had gotten base hits over eight straight plate appearances.

As a team, Langley has gotten out of the gate fast this season as far as hitting the baseball.

"I’ve been real pleased with how we’re hitting the baseball," said Ferrell. "Anyone we’ve faced, we’ve hit it real well."

Mahn, for his part, believes Langley’s stellar batting and a pitching rotation that includes Hunter, junior Joey Zarella and senior Jody Davis could mean good things for the Saxons.

"States, no doubt in my mind," said Mahn, of his belief that Langley has the talent to be a state playoff team. "Our line-up is stacked."

Added Hunter, "We have a great pitching staff and, from top to bottom, everyone in our line-up can just smack the ball."

Langley’s wins this season have come over Loudoun County, T.C. Williams, Centreville and Valley. Langley was scheduled to play Liberty District opponent South Lakes earlier this week on Monday.