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Langley Puts a Damper on McLean’s `Senior Night’

Highlanders lose baseball finale, but finish regular season with impressive 14-6 record.

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McLean sophomore shortstop Chris Russo belted a double and had a single in the Highlanders’ Senior Night loss to Langley last Thursday night.

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It was a tough night for the Highlanders, who hope to face Langley again at districts.

The Langley High baseball team proved to be first-rate party crashers last Thursday night as the Saxons deflated cross-town rival McLean’s homecoming festivities by rolling to a 12-1 win.

The Liberty District game, which was the final regular season contest for both squads, took place at McLean. Rain had fallen throughout the day, but things cleared off enough so that the game could be played.

Both teams were set to compete in this week’s postseason district tournament.

Langley, the No. 3-seed in the district tournament, simply had things going in the win over the Highlanders.

Leading the way for the Saxons was left handed starting pitcher Joey Zarella, who went the distance (5 innings) in the game shortened by the 10-run mercy rule.

Zarella (5-1 record), a junior and Langley’s No. 1 starter, allowed one run and four hits, while striking out eight and walking one.

"I was locating my fastball well, and the curve," said Zarella. "I kept the ball down."

Meanwhile, the Langley offense struck early and often in the lopsided affair. The Saxons scored two runs in each of the first three innings, then broke the game wide open with five more runs in the fourth to go ahead 11-1. For good measure, the guests scored another run in the fifth.

Langley, as things turned out, scored at least one run in every inning.

"We’re playing great baseball," said Zarella, who helped his team finish the regular season with a 9-5 record in the district. "This is a good boost going into the district tournament. We’re expecting noting less than a championship."

The win was especially sweet for Langley because it came over its area rival on the Highlanders’ senior night.

Seven McLean 12th graders were honored during pre-game ceremonies, to the delight of the Highlander fans in attendance.

But when the game got started, McLean (14-6 overall record, 9-5 district) could not carry the pre-game emotional charge into the play on the field.

"I don’t know," said McLean coach John Thomas, looking to sum up the evening. "Obviously, we weren’t expecting this. I tip my cap to Langley. They kicked us up and down the field twice this year."

But Thomas, whose team had also lost to the Saxons, 12-2, in a district road game earlier in the spring, was hardly giving up hope that his team would come back strong at districts this week.

"I have enough confidence in the kids to think it will come together [in the postseason]," said Thomas.

The McLean skipper credited Zarella with tossing a fine game against his team.

"Joey threw great," he said.

Meanwhile, McLean starter, sophomore Sean Fitzgerald, lasted 3-1/3 innings in taking the loss. Fitzgerald finished the regular season with a good 5-3 record. The Highlanders’ other top-flight pitcher this season has been sophomore Denis Buckley (5-1).

<b>MCLEAN</b> has put together a solid regular season. The loss to Langley does not change that. One of the Highlanders’ biggest wins of the season came in an upset win over Northern Region power Stone Bridge, 4-1, on April 18. McLean also beat district power Madison, 3-1, on April 23.

The Highlanders have been led by their seniors this season. Those 12th graders are: right fielder Corey Cannon, first baseman John Bodson, infielder John Scholla, left fielder Kendall Wilkins, catcher David Roffman, pitcher/third baseman Quinn Pippin and center fielder Justin Johnson. McLean’s mantra this spring has been `focus, effort and enthusiasm.’ The Highlanders have a nice blend of seasoned players and talented underclassmen.

"We have a great young team and the senior leadership has helped us out," said Pippin, who along with sophomore starting pitchers Fitzgerald and Buckley has given McLean a formidable starting rotation. "A lot of guys are hitting over .300 and we’re playing good defense."

Pippin said McLean simply got off to a bad start against Langley and never was able to get back into the game.

"We didn’t come out strong," said Pippin, who had one of McLean’s four hits and scored his team’s lone run. "We were excited about [senior night]. The ball didn’t bounce our way tonight. Hopefully, we’ll get to see them again in the district semifinals. We have to keep our heads up."

Several Langley players had big games at the plate. In all, the Saxons knocked around 11 hits. Leadoff hitter Danny Bergamesca sent a solo home run over the right center field fence in the top of the fourth inning. For the night, the left-handed hitting senior had three hits, including a weather-aided, RBI triple in the fifth. The strange three-bagger was partially the result of a fog that had fallen upon the shallow left and left center field areas in the fourth inning.

Bergamesca lifted a fly ball that disappeared into the thick fog. The ball, which normally would have been catchable, dropped onto the grass and Bergamesca hustled his way to third base.

Other multi-hit games for Langley came from: shortstop Jack Mclindon (2 hits, 1 walk), first baseman Eddie Gonzalez (2 singles, 1 walk, 3 runs scored) and left fielder Chris Sievers (double, RBI single, RBI walk). Also for the Saxons, Zarella had a double and a sacrifice fly, third baseman Michael Klein singled and DH Jody Davis knocked a sacrifice fly.

McLean’s base hits came from Chris Russo (double, single), Pippin and Fitzgerald (RBI single).

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