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Stone Bridge Rocks DeMatha in Opener

Defending Liberty champs are set to host McLean this Friday night.

The Stone Bridge High baseball team got off to an impressive start with a season-opening 11-0 win over visiting DeMatha High (Hyattesville, Md.) on Monday evening. The non-league contest took place in drizzling, cool conditions at Stone Bridge’s home campus diamond in Ashburn.

Stone Bridge, coming off a season last year in which it went 20-4 and captured the Liberty District regular season and tournament titles, is looking for another big season this spring. And the lopsided triumph over the Stags, who are always one of the better teams in the tough WCAC private school league, was a good start.

"We played real well, and we played good defense," said Stone Bridge coach Sam Plank, of the season opener win.

Stone Bridge, which a year ago saw its season end with a second round loss to Oakton at the 16-team Northern Region tournament, jumped all over DeMatha for eight runs in the bottom of the second inning to take an 8-0 lead.

In the third, the Bulldogs tacked on three more to make it 11-0. That was more than enough offensive firepower for the home team as neither team scored over the game’s final four innings.

<b>BULLDOG STARTING</b> pitcher Nick Fialdini, a senior, earned the win, tossing three no-hit innings in his brief stint. He walked two and struck out three.

"He throws the ball from the middle to upper 80s," said Plank, of Fialdini’s heater. "We’re counting on him to step up big. He’s the ace of our staff."

Relievers Ryan Cummings and Taylor Tice each threw shutout ball out of the bullpen for the Bulldogs.

At the plate, Stone Bridge first baseman Patrick Thompson (2 RBIs) and shortstop Pat Piccolo (3 RBIs) both had two hits. Also, center fielder Johnny Bladel knocked an RBI triple, leadoff batter Spenser Rositano had a base hit and two RBIs, and Michael Prince and Taylor Lamke both had a hit an RBI. Other base hits in the Bulldogs’ 10-hit attack came from Bryce Williams and Spencer Brookbank.

"It was just our night," said Plank. "We have some new guys out there and our pitchers threw strikes."

Stone Bridge will carry the momentum of the win into this Friday night’s Liberty District home game against McLean, which is coming off a 17-8 season a year ago. In last spring’s district tournament semifinals, the Bulldogs defeated the Highlanders, 2-0.

<b>STONE BRIDGE</b> has 11 seniors on its roster this spring. One of those 12th graders is center fielder Bladel, last year’s District Player of the Year. A third-year starter in the outfield, Bladel will also be utilized as the Stone Bridge pitching closer out of the bullpen.

"He’s an incredible athlete with incredible arm strength," said Plank, of Bladel’s all-around game. "He hits for average and power. [On the mound] he’s throwing the ball real hard. He hardly pitched last year. He’s been a very pleasant surprise."

Other key senior players include Prince, a third year starting outfielder who earned Second Team All-District recognition last year, and Thompson (4 home runs last year), who made First Team All-District as a junior.

In a couple of weeks, Stone Bridge will travel to Charleston, S.C. for a spring break trip. There, the Bulldogs will compete at the Hitt Tournament. Stone Bridge will play a team from Southwest Miami in its first game on April 6 before playing a double-header the following day against Hedgesville, West Va. and Wando, S.C. In all, Stone Bridge will play four games in Charleston before returning home on April 8.