Two of the top high school baseball teams in the Concorde District - Westfield, an established, year-in and year-out Northern Region force, and Herndon, one of the better up-and-coming programs in the region - met in a key, late regular season game last Friday night.
While neither squad entered the contest atop the district standings - that accolade going to Oakton High - both teams are highly regarded and will likely enter next week's district tournament with good seedings.
On Friday, it was Westfield, playing at home and celebrating its Senior Night, which stepped up with a huge, momentum-building win, overcoming an early deficit and defeating the Hornets, 12-2, in a contest that ended in the fifth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule.
Westfield, ahead by a comfortable 10-2 lead, scored two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. The latter run, with one out, crossed the plate on senior catcher Hayden Ferington's RBI groundout to create a 10-run differential and automatically end the game.
Ferington, one of the seven Westfield seniors honored during special pre-game Senior Night festivities, had a big game that included an RBI double, an RBI single, three runs scored, and the game-ending RBI groundout.
"The emotions were definitely running high," said Ferington, of the Senior Night celebratories that took place.
Westfield, with the win, improved its record to 14-3 overall and 6-2 in the district. The Bulldogs, less than two weeks earlier, had lost at Herndon, 9-4, on April 25 and were looking to square things up in Friday's meeting.
"We wanted to show that the last time we had lost to them - that we're better than that," said Ferington.
Westfield, last year's district tournament champions, will enter the district playoffs next Wednesday, May 18 as either the No. 1 or 2 seed. The Bulldogs, vying with current first place team Oakton (14-4 overall, 7-1 district) for regular season championship honors, are scheduled to wrap up the regular season this week with district road games at Chantilly on Tuesday, May 10, and at Oakton this Friday night, May 13 at 6:30. The regular season-finale game with Oakton, which defeated Westfield, 5-4, in a home game on April 26, will likely finalize top seedings for districts.
"We're trying to give ourselves some momentum for the district tournament," said Westfield junior pitcher Kyle Corwin, who went four innings to earn the win over Herndon on Friday.
Corwin said winning Friday's game for the 12th grade members of the team was especially important for him and his fellow underclassmen teammates.
"On Senior Night, we wanted to get a win for our seniors and send them off on a good note," said Corwin.
Herndon (9-4 overall, 4-4 district), while out of the running for the No. 1 or 2 seeds for districts, has plenty to play for over the remainder of this season. The Hornets, who did not qualify for the 16-team Northern Region playoffs last year, are determined to do so this season. To make regionals, Herndon must win a first round district tournament game next week. Coach Greg Miller's squad will likely go into the districts as a No. 4 seed. Herndon was set to wrap up its regular season schedule this week with district games against host Robinson on Tuesday and against visiting Chantilly this Friday night at 6:30.
"What we have to do is put [the loss to Westfield] behind us," said Miller. "The loss is disappointing. We didn't really match their intensity tonight. It's not that we didn't play hard. We've still got a good team. Maybe this is what we need - sometimes a loss can give you a spark."
<b>HERNDON SCORED</b> two runs in the top of the second inning to jump ahead of Westfield, 2-0. Parker Hill, a junior left fielder, smacked a one out, line drive single into center field to start the rally. Junior third baseman Chris Dugan, from the No. 7 spot in the batting order, then sent a sizzling, opposite field line drive down the first base line for an RBI triple. The next batter, sophomore first baseman Austin Schnarrs, plated Dugan with an RBI ground out to make it 2-0 Hornets.
But those would be the only two runs Herndon would get. For the game, Corwin, Westfield's right-handed starting pitcher, limited Herndon to the two runs and four hits over his four innings of work. He struck out five and walked none. Westfield's Johnny Gullette pitched one inning of scoreless relief.
Following the second inning, Herndon's only base hits came from leadoff hitting second baseman Dylan Garten (third inning single) and sophomore Ky Parrott (fourth inning infield single). There were other instances in which Herndon players hit the ball well only to see Westfield outfielders make good plays - such as a deep fly ball to center fielder Danny Bulas off the bat of Tyler Reif in the first inning, and another ball hit by Reif in the third inning which resulted in a nifty, sliding catch by Westfield right fielder Matt Pisarcik.
Westfield did not score off Herndon starting pitcher Addison Wright (3 innings) in the first inning. But the Bulldogs scored four in the bottom of the second to take a 4-2 lead before getting another run in the third and five more in the fourth.
Westfield knocked around three doubles in the second - two baggers by Wade Arduini, Ferington (RBI), and No. 9 hitter Pisarcik (2 RBI). In the third, Arduini, a junior first baseman, hit another double before scoring on an RBI single into center field by Ferington to make the score 5-2.
Key Westfield base hits in the five-run fourth inning came from senior left fielder Aaron Hoover (RBI triple) and Corwin (RBI single). Multi-hit games for the Bulldogs came from Hoover (3 hits), Corwin (2 hits), Arduini (2 hits), Ferington (2 hits), and Pisarcik (2 hits).
It was a rare tough showing for Wright, the Herndon pitcher who has been a key part of the Hornets' success this spring.
"Addison has had a great year," said Miller, the Herndon coach.
Corwin, the Westfield starter, just wanted to keep his team in the game early on.
"My job as a pitcher is not to strike everybody out, but to hold them to a limited amount of runs and keep us in the game," said Corwin. "I didn't want the game to slip away [in Herndon's, 2-run second inning]."
Ferington, the Bulldogs' catcher, was pleased with Corwin's showing.
"He spotted his fastball pretty well and his curve was over the plate," said Ferington.