Lake Braddock senior infielder Patch McLucas entered Monday night's Patriot District baseball final with a tinge of disappointment before his team's game with West Springfield.
He wasn't going to face the Spartans' potential Major League Baseball pitcher Bobby Wahl.
"I was really disappointed. I love facing the best opponent I can face," he said.
Junior infielder Kenny Towns didn't quite share that same disappointment.
"It gave everyone a sense of a relief," he said. "We didn't have to think, 'Oh, it's a MLB prospect pitching.'"
Wahl pitched in West Springfield's semi-final victory over W.T. Woodson on May 21, meaning the Ole Miss recruit would sit out the district final.
McLucas realized the opportunity at hand.
After losing twice to West Springfield in the regular season, his team had a chance to avenge those losses and take the Patriot District baseball title.
"We knew we weren't losing this one," he said. "We came out with determination and fought all game. We just didn't stop."
The Bruins took advantage of Wahl's absence from the mound and jetted out to a 4-2 lead after two innings and piled on the runs with one in the fourth and two in the fifth.
Sophomore pitcher Michael Church threw for six innings before giving up the mound in the seventh as Lake Braddock claimed the Patriot District title with a 9-4 victory.
"I was just hitting my spots tonight," Church said. "It worked out for me. I had a great defense behind me. It was one of my best nights of the year."
Lake Braddock's game wasn't just defined by Church's performance on the mound. The Bruins put together a complete game, excelling in hitting, pitching and defense.
"This was the best game I've ever played," McLucas said. "We probably won in all three facets of the game. We just deserved it."
Head Coach Jody Rutherford said complete performances by the team were hard to come by throughout the season.
"From the get-go, one of our strengths was going to be our defense," he said. "For some reason, it never came together. This was the first game."
"We had some ups and downs on defense," McLucas said. "Defense was supposed to be our strong suit, but we had a couple games where we dropped the ball.
The Bruins' attention now turns to the Northern Region playoffs next week, but for now the team is relishing the championship win.
"I'm just speechless," Church said.
West Springfield head coach John James used his post-game speech to remind his team that even after the deflating loss, the season is far from over.
"Well, you got to keep the spirits high. You got to keep everyone positive," he said. "The main thing I told them was that we still have much to play for. I told them to walk out of here with their heads held high and to remain positive."
James is focused on getting his team to play one game at a time and not look too far ahead.
"That’s the only way you can approach the tournament," he said. "It’s the big time now so we will go back to work and get on track."