West Potomac left-hander Dan Jarrell limited the Lake Braddock baseball team, a potential state title contender, to three runs in four innings on Monday. At the plate, the junior had two hits, including an RBI single in the fourth.
Jarrell’s effort spearheaded an improved effort by the Wolverines against higher-end competition. After losing handily to South County (15-4) and Annandale (10-0), West Potomac trailed Lake Braddock 4-1 entering the seventh inning. While a stronger performance was encouraging for the Wolverines, the team was saddled with another loss, falling 8-1 to the Bruins at WPHS.
West Potomac opened the season with three straight wins, outscoring Mount Vernon, Edison and Patriot District opponent Lee 49-9. But since the Wolverines entered a more difficult part of their schedule, they’ve been outscored 33-5. However, West Potomac could have something to build on after hanging around against Lake Braddock before the Bruins added four runs in the seventh.
"That was certainly a much better game than when we played against Annandale," West Potomac head coach Jim Sullivan said, "but still, [Lake Braddock] is a good team and we’re not going to beat these guys playing OK. We played OK."
Since starting the season 3-0, West Potomac has struggled at the plate. On Monday, the Wolverines managed five hits against Lake Braddock starter Michael Church.
"We definitely haven’t adjusted yet to the pitching with these last three teams," junior shortstop/pitcher Sean Trenchard said. "We’ve seen some good pitching. Other than that, today, the score doesn’t explain the game at all. … We just need to hit the ball and I think that will come around. … If [we can hit] next time we play them we should beat these guys. We should beat everyone once our hitting comes around."
West Potomac pitchers have also struggled. Jarrell pitched well enough to keep the Wolverines in the game, but it wasn’t enough.
"That’s what we were worried about all along: will the pitching be strong enough to compete," Sullivan said. "We don’t have a single pitcher that was as good as the guy [Lake Braddock] rolled out there today. We don’t have single pitcher as good as the guy Annandale rolled out there and we didn’t have a single pitcher as good as the South County guy that came out. The way that we’re going to win is 4-3 or 5-4, but our pitchers have got to be on, they’ve got to throw strikes, they can’t walk people and they’ve got to keep the ball down so that we get groundballs instead of home runs. "Right now, Dan’s probably our best pitcher because he can throw more than just a fastball for a strike. We tell them, if you can’t throw three pitches for a strike, these guys are going to stand up there waiting for a fastball, licking their lips — and you’ll either walk them or get to see them run a long ways."
Sullivan also said the team has had problems with situational baseball.
"We’ve got a bunch of guys who still struggle from time to time [with playing] a team game," the coach said. "I understand, I used to play some ball and I wanted to get a hit. But there’s times when you absolutely need a hit and there’s times when you need to be a base runner and sometimes we don’t remember that. We tend to go to sleep from time to time."
If West Potomac can build on its performance against Lake Braddock, the Wolverines can not only make some noise this season, but in the future. West Potomac has only two seniors on its roster, neither of which was in the starting lineup Monday. Of the 17 players on the roster, 12 are juniors and three are sophomores. However, with many of the Wolverines having gained varsity experience last season, the "young team" label only goes so far.
"That’s not really an excuse anymore," Trenchard said. "We will definitely be a lot better next year with all seniors, but it shouldn’t be an excuse."
Trenchard is one of the most physically gifted players on the team, but Sullivan said he needs to make better use of his leadership skills.
"Sean’s probably the best athlete we have on the team," Sullivan said. "He’s a great leader, but what he’s got to do is lead."
Sophomore first baseman/pitcher Jayme Murray was one of the team’s standouts as a freshman.
"Jayme is probably the best baseball player on the team," Sullivan said. "He really knows the game inside and out and does all the right things. He didn’t play well today, he struck out twice, but he doesn’t usually swing at bad pitches. He’ll put the ball in play, he’ll go the other way and he’s a stellar fielder and a fine pitcher. He’s only a sophomore. In a couple years, if his velocity gets up a little bit, he could be right up there with [Lake Braddock standout Kenny] Towns."
Junior catcher Matt Hrin made several nice plays from behind the plate and Sullivan said junior Josh Belanger has pitched well.
"I wouldn’t consider our team a young team because most of these guys played varsity last year as sophomores, so they’ve already had a year’s experience," Sullivan said. "We still have great expectations for them. We still think that if things fall right for us, we can compete with these guys and maybe beat them once in a while."