The Washington-Lee baseball team was familiar with the hitter-friendly dimensions at Oakton’s Thomas K. Hall Stadium. In the second game of the season, the Generals watched Oakton’s Luke Willis belt an opposite field walk-off home run to right. With the right-field foul pole only 280 feet from home plate and a distance of 350 feet to dead center, fly balls can be an adventure.
Facing Lake Braddock in the second round of the regional tournament on May 31, W-L pitcher Tom Edwards fell victim to the dimensions.
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the first, Lake Braddock’s Ryan Owens lifted an Edwards offering to center field. With the wind blowing out, the ball carried over the fence for a grand slam and a 5-0 Bruins lead. The following batter, Mike Fanning, hit fly ball to right-center field that also carried over the fence, essentially taking the Generals’ chances of victory with it. The Bruins went on to win 11-0.
"He put the bat on it, popped it up [and] the wind carried it out," Edwards said of Owens’ grand slam. "It kind of sucks because we worked so hard. We know [Lake Braddock] is good [but] I make a good pitch, it should be an out — one run at most."
Edwards, the National District Player of the Year and a first-team all region selection as an outfielder, pitched five innings, allowing three runs over his final four frames.
"We knew that was going to happen," W-L head coach Doug Grove said of the field’s dimensions turning fly balls into home runs. "We were hoping we would do it, but we didn’t and they did. … There’s nothing you can do. Those are outs on our field but we’re not playing on our field. That’s the way it goes. We were well aware of that, too, believe me. We wanted to pop one out there."
While the Generals’ season ended with a lopsided loss, the team finished with 18 wins and its first regional playoff victory since 2004. W-L defeated Stone Bridge in the opening round on May 28.
"We’ve been a tough out all year," Edwards said.
The Generals finished with the best record in the National District during the regular season (13-1) and lost to Yorktown in the championship game. W-L had six players named to the all-district first team: catcher Ryan Dickt, first baseman Ben Coffman, third baseman Jeremy Seipp, outfielder Tom Edwards and pitchers Tim Edwards and Austin Evans. Dickt, Coffman and Evans are juniors and should be key contributors next season.
Coffman said the Generals have to carry the effort they gave this season into 2011.
We have to continue "the work ethic that we had in the offseason," he said. "The way we played, we left it all on the field."
"We probably had half-a-dozen bad days all season long, including practices, which is all you can ask for," Grove said. "Maybe five to six days where we weren’t really a good team."