Matt Kilby knew South County left-hander Jonathan Harasin was going to pitch him away during a sixth-inning at bat. The T.C. Williams senior focused on hitting the ball to the opposite field and, with the Titans trailing, deposited a screaming line drive over the right-field fence for a two-run homer.
"I knew I got it pretty solidly," Kilby said. "I knew it had a chance. I was rounding first hard and I saw it go over."
The following inning, Titans senior Rob Mannel saw a pitch to his liking and belted a home run well beyond the fence in center.
Did he know it was gone?
"Yeah," Mannel said with a laugh. "That was one where you could kind of tell off the bat."
While impressive feats of power, the longballs weren’t enough for the Titans, who lost to South County 6-3 on April 15 at Simpson Field. T.C. Williams head coach Andrew Simpson praised the Titans’ pitching and defensive effort, but three runs against a Stallions team that won nine of its first 10 games wasn’t enough.
TC was held to three hits and no runs in the first five innings. Mannel said the Titans hurt their chances before ever stepping foot in the batter’s box.
"I think the effort was there, definitely," Mannel said. "We could have hit a little better as a team. If we had some team meetings about what the pitcher is throwing for strikes then we definitely would have been better off — but we failed to do that."
Harasin held TC to six hits. Kilby had a double to left-center, Nick Severini had two singles and Alex Goldfarb had one.
"Harasin, he was on," Simpson said. "We just ran into a good pitcher having a good night."
T.C. Williams, ranked No. 10 in the Northern Region preseason coaches poll, is off to a 2-4 start in Patriot District play. Three of the Titans’ four losses have come by three runs or less, including a one-run loss to West Springfield on April 9. TC completes the first round of district play on April 23 against Lake Braddock.
Part of the Titans’ struggles can be attributed to injury. Senior second baseman Adam Forrer, a first-team all-region selection last year and the team’s No. 3 hitter, suffered a knee injury in the offseason and is out for the year. Junior pitcher Steve Weidman, the ace of the Titans’ staff, has missed time due to an ankle injury. But the injuries have given other players a chance to step up, and senior Chris Cattaneo is one player who’s taken advantage.
Cattaneo suffered the loss against South County, allowing five earned runs in six innings, including a pair of home runs. But the right-hander has helped hold things together in the early going, posting a 4-1 record.
"Chris is a location guy, he’s got to hit his spots," Simpson said. "If he misses his spots, like he did on the first home run, that can happen. He’s got a great curveball. He had the hitters off balance the first two times through. He’s the leader of this pitching staff right now. He’s 4-1 [and] every time he goes out on the mound I think we’re going to win."
Team defense was a concern for Simpson prior to the season, but the coach praised the Titans’ effort against the Stallions. TC committed two errors, but Simpson said it was the best the team has played all season.
Cattaneo said a strong defensive effort helps ease his mind on the mound.
"The guys played excellent defense behind me and that’s always a plus when you’re pitching," he said. "It lets me know that I can afford to make mistakes. … With them playing defense behind me I know I can throw a pitch right down the middle by mistake and they’re going to catch it or field it."
TC lost to Annandale 7-4 on April 16 and defeated West Potomac on April 20. The Titans (7-5, 2-4) travel to face Lake Braddock at 6:30 p.m. April 23.
"We’re right there with [our opponents]," Simpson said. "We’ve just got to take the next step. The second time through the rotation of the district we’ve got to take the next step.
"We’re not playing with a full deck right now. You take the No. 3 out of any team’s lineup and you’re going to be one run short in some games. But the thing I love about this team is they never give up, they keep fighting and we are getting production out of 1 through 17."
Kilby said success begins with the Titans believing they can win.
"I think it’s all mental," he said. "T.C. Williams never [has] very high expectations. This year there were some expectations but no one [outside of the program] thinks we’re going to beat these teams. We know we can beat these teams. We were beating West Springfield — that game was ours; that game got taken from us. We can beat these teams and we all know it now."