The sun had long since set behind the baseball field at South County Secondary School, but T.C. Williams senior Matt Kilby sported sunglasses as he walked over for a postgame interview. The Titans’ season ended moments earlier with a 9-1 loss to the Stallions in the Patriot District tournament and Kilby was shielding the emotion in his eyes.
But Kilby, near the top of his class at TC and on his way to play baseball for Navy, didn’t hide everything behind his shades. The all-region performer expressed verbally what it felt like to end his high school career with a touch of humor and ample agony.
How was Kilby feeling?
"Expletive," he joked. "It’s the worst feeling ever. To feel that I’m never going to be able to play baseball with my best friends ever again; I’m never going to be able to play high school baseball ever again; it’s ripping my stomach out right now."
The loss ended the careers of several Titans who helped put TC baseball back on the map. Andrew Simpson, in his second season as head coach, had worked with the team’s seniors since they were in the eighth grade. After winning a regional tournament game and posting back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 33 years during the 2009 season, TC entered 2010 with big expectations. But injuries to key players — all-region second baseman Adam Forrer, pitcher Steve Weidman — and inconsistent play led to disappointment.
"Last year we were living good, won a game in regionals," Kilby said. "We all thought, ‘Wow, if we could do that last year, state championship here we come. But injuries happen; you can’t do anything about them. It was bad luck. … [I could] spend the rest of my life thinking how well we could have done with Adam at second and Steven on the mound."
TC finished 10-12, marking the first time the Titans posted three consecutive 10-win seasons since the 1970s.
Kilby, TC’s all-time career RBI leader, hit .476 during his senior season with six home runs and 23 RBIs. He also went 3-3 on the mound with three saves. Senior Rob Mannel hit .380 with six home runs and 22 RBIs and senior pitcher Chris Cattaneo led the Titans with five victories.
"I’ve been dreading this day for five years," Simpson said after the South County game. "This was the year that we looked forward to. I had these kids, seven of them, as eighth-graders. They’ve really made a huge impact on the program. They’ve really put TC baseball on the map."
Seniors Alex Hampl, Alex Goldfarb, Marshall Cook and Jon Jones also ended their Titan careers.
AGAINST SOUTH COUNTY, TC jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Mannel led off the second inning with a home run over the 360-foot sign in center field. But that was as good as it would get for the Titans, who quickly fell behind when South County scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning. The Stallions added two runs in the third inning and three in the fourth.
Mannel started on the mound and allowed seven earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
"A couple things went wrong, mechanically," Mannel said. "I really didn’t have it like I usually do. Nerves got to me a little bit, I guess. It was a pretty important game — the most important game of my life — and I just didn’t have it."
Mannel said he’ll remember the jokes his teammates told and the fun they had together. He also said he wants to walk onto the baseball team at Radford University, sounding determined not to let the loss be his last game.
"I just need to play baseball," he said. "If I don’t make it, I’m either going to transfer or do everything I can to make it the next year."
Cattaneo pitched, 2 1/3 innings of relief, allowing one earned run.
"I’ve been playing with these guys since I was in elementary school, middle school," he said. "You can’t take those [memories] away. Those are with you for life."
The Titans will return several key contributors in 2011. Junior Trav Clark batted .476 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 2010. Juniors Nick Severini (.400) and Tim Trout (.345) and sophomores Aaron Tovsky (.371) and Nate Ribyat (.345) each batted better than .300. On the mound, junior Weidman will be the staff ace and Alec Grosser, who won a game as a freshman, will likely be a contributor.
"When a down year is a 10-win season," Simpson said, "I think we’re moving in the right direction."
If the Titans are headed in the right direction, the 2010 seniors helped point them that way.
"I’m just going to remember playing baseball with my best friends," Kilby said. "You can talk about all the individual stats or awards all you want, but that’s not what I’m going to remember. I’m not going to remember how many RBIs I had this year, I’m not going to remember how many home runs. I’m just going to remember the feeling of coming to the baseball field, leaving the baseball field, getting there early, staying late and just having fun with my best friends."