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Head Start Lifts Spartans

West Springfield baseball grabs 2-1 win over Chantilly on Wednesday in Northern Region semifinals.

Every record kept of the West Springfield baseball team’s 2-1 win over Chantilly Wednesday night in the Northern Region semifinals will show that Andy Stallings’ game-winning double in the bottom of the ninth inning produced the Spartans’ first trip to the region title game since 1999.

But if Stallings’ opposite-field blast had come a few pitches earlier, it might’ve just been a footnote, an extra ingredient in a tight ballgame that could’ve very well continued further into the night.

At first base was Richie McMahon, who won’t exactly be impersonating Usain Bolt anytime soon. After Stallings fouled off two pitches and took another for ball three to force a full count, McMahon -- with two outs -- would automatically head toward second base when Chantilly pitcher John Colella went to the plate.

And when Stallings got an outside fastball he could handle and drilled it the opposite way, McMahon was turning second with little doubt that he was going to be waved home by West Springfield coach John James.

“I’m not the fastest guy around, but that was probably the fastest I’ve ever ran,” said McMahon, who collected three hits and walked once. “I knew I had to score.”

Added James, “It was a big plus for us to be able to put our runner in motion. We got him in motion and once the ball got in the air, there was no question we were sending him home.”

With the win, West Springfield (21-4) advanced to face Lake Braddock in Friday’s region final at Madison, as the Bruins pulled off a 3-0 upset of Westfield in the earlier game at Robinson Secondary School.

Despite the fact that the game lasted nine innings, it took only 2 hours, 25 minutes to complete. Part of that was the lack of runs that crossed home plate, but part of that also revolved around the excellent pitching performances turned in by Colella and West Springfield’s Bobby Wahl.

Both went the distance, with Wahl allowing five hits and striking out 14 over his 130-pitch outing. Colella, meanwhile, gave up seven hits, struck out seven and walked three with his 105 pitches. And surprisingly, the two pitchers combined for only five 1-2-3 innings.

“The pitchers were dealing tonight,” James said.

In the fifth inning, James decided to pinch hit for Stallings, sending Mike Kent to the plate instead. Kent struck out and Stallings was allowed to re-enter. But Kent’s cameo was nothing more than the result of playing a strategical hunch, James said.

Stallings wasn’t affected and proved as much when he recorded his first hit of the night. As the No. 9 hitter, Stallings was seeing a steady diet of fastballs. So he simply waited for one on the outside corner and took it to right field.

“I knew that’s what I was gonna get,” Stallings said. “I just kept fouling them off, and finally I got one middle away.”

Chantilly scored first when it plated Kevin McGrath on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. McGrath led off the frame with a single and moved to second when Nick Kralles reached on an errant throw to first.

With runners on first and second, Wahl threw wild to second, moving each runner ahead 90 feet, and Matt Dewitt brought McGrath home with his fly ball to center. West Springfield answered in the bottom of the sixth when Wahl led off with a double and Tucker Tobin scored him with a single down the right field line.