Following a lively first inning that included a couple of home runs, a pitcher’s duel developed in Monday afternoon’s Northern Region quarterfinals baseball game between Centreville and Madison. At game’s end, Madison had won the hard-fought postseason affair, 4-2, in front of a large Memorial Day crowd at Madison High School in Vienna.
Madison (16-7), with the win, advanced to the region semifinals on Wednesday, June 2 at Robinson High School where it was to meet the West Springfield/Fairfax quarterfinals round winner. Wednesday’s round of four winner will advance to Friday’s 7 p.m. championship game at Lake Braddock High School. The two teams who meet in the title game will automatically qualify for next week’s eight-team state AAA tournament.
In Monday’s holiday game, Madison left-handed pitcher Elie Facenda, a junior, overcame a rough first inning in which he allowed a two-run homer to Centreville star Cam Walter before settling and pitching five solid innings to earn the victory.
Facenda, in a shaky top of the first inning, allowed a one-out walk to David Delorimier. Then, two batters later, with Delorimier on second as a result of a stolen base, Walter, the Concorde District’s Player of the Year this spring, pulled a towering home run well over the left field fence to give his team a quick 2-0 lead.
“He got a good pitch and he smoked that one,” said Centreville fourth year head coach Morgan Spencer, a former Madison assistant coach for five years under current Madison coach Mark Gjormand.
Facenda, probably a little shaken, hit the next batter, senior Chris Campbell, with a pitch before retiring the next hitter to end the inning.
After that, Facenda pitched four shutout innings, allowing just three hits over that span. Over his five innings, he struck out two and walked two. Facenda worked out of a little jam in the fourth inning, following a one-out double by Centreville catcher Chris Mandell, by coaxing a pop out and groundout to retire the side.
Spencer, as a former Madison assistant, is familiar with several of the Warhawk players. He was impressed with Facenda’s outing against his team.
“I’ve worked with all these [Madison] guys,” said Spencer. “Eli battled his tail off today. He made good pitches in good spots. He’s got a lot of heart.”
Meanwhile, on the other side, Centreville’s Connor Bach was also doing a good job of bouncing back from a difficult first inning. Bach, also a southpaw who earned First Team All-Concorde District honors as an outfielder this spring, had allowed a two-out, three-run home run to No. 5 Madison batter Ryan McGuire in the bottom of the first. Madison’s Johnny Graham had reached on a one-out error and Ted Turner had been hit by a pitch to set the table for the powerfully built McGuire, who sent a high fly ball over the left center field fence to erase the Warhawks’ 2-0 deficit and make the score 3-2 Madison. It was McGuire’s fifth homer of the season.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” said McGuire, of the first inning at-bat. “I’ve been in a slump lately and was looking for a fastball. Bach is a good pitcher but he made a mistake and I took advantage of it.”
Bach, after the first, pitched three scoreless innings, allowing a couple of singles. In the fifth, however, Madison’s lower part of the order did damage when No. 8 hitter Nate Favero roped a line drive triple into center field before No. 9 hitter Andy McGuire, a freshman shortstop and the younger brother of Ryan, plated Favero with a double into left center field to make the score 4-2 Madison. Bach was removed from the game at that point and reliever Ryan Ashooh, another left hander and one of the top starting pitchers in the region this spring, recorded three outs without any more damage.
<b>MADISON RELIEF PITCHER</b> Dan Cate entered the game to start the sixth inning in place of Facenda. The tall right hander retired the first batter he faced – Walter, on a fly ball to left field - before Centreville, trailing 4-2, got back to back singles from Campbell and Mandell to set up runners at first and third.
“I was just thinking, `This is going to be a battle,’” said Cate, a Madison starting pitcher last year who has flourished as a reliever this season.
Cate got a strikeout and groundout to end the threat. On the groundball for the final out, shortstop McGuire threw high to first, but older brother Ryan leapt upward to catch the ball before landing on the bag to barely beat hard-running Kevin LaChance.
“I was scared about that throw,” said Ryan McGuire, with a laugh. “That’s my brother at shortstop. I got a little mad at him [later] in the dugout. We used to play baseball together in the backyard.”
In Centreville’s final at-bats in the seventh, Mark Behne started the inning with a groundball single to right field. But Cate got outs on the next three batters and Madison had won.
Cate said he has loved his role out of the bullpen this season.
“Being a reliever this year I come into games with a lot more energy and emotion,” said Cate. “When the game is on the line, I like to come in.”
He said facing Walter to start the sixth was no easy task.
“I threw him a fastball inside,” recalled Kate, of the at-bat in which he got Walter to hit a shallow fly ball to left. “With Cam being as good a hitter as he is, going inside on him is probably the best strategy.”
Spencer, the Centreville coach, said his starter, Bach, pitched well in the loss.
“He threw great,” said Spencer. “One [bad] pitch [to McGuire in the first] – he put a good swing on it for the home run.”
Spencer is proud of the way his team played this season. The Wildcats won the regular season district title before reaching the district tournament finals where they lost to Westfield. At regionals, Centreville defeated South County in a first round game to advance and meet Madison.
“It was a great season,” said Spencer. “You never want it to end. But at some point it’s got to end. This is a great group of guys.”