The T.C. Williams lineup showed signs of life in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Titans brought the tying run to the plate against West Potomac.
But with two runners on and two outs, TC’s threat ended in an all-too-familiar fashion: with the bat resting near the shoulder as strike three settled in the catcher’s mitt.
West Potomac senior pitchers Michael Barnes and Billy Lescher combined for 12 strikeouts, eight of the looking variety, and the Wolverines defeated the Titans 4-1 on Tuesday night at Simpson Field in Alexandria. The T.C. Williams baseball team managed just three hits.
Barnes started on the mound and pitched five innings, earning the win. He allowed one run and two hits while hitting one batter, walking none and striking out seven. Lescher picked up a two-inning save, allowing one hit and walking two while striking out five.
“[Barnes and Lescher are] our No. 1 and 2, and you can pick [which] one [is No. 1],” West Potomac head coach Jim Sullivan said. “We’re counting on them to do a lot this year. If they pitch like they did tonight, we’ll win a lot of games.”
Barnes, listed at 6 feet 3, 166 pounds, will play for the United States Merchant Marine Academy.
“It’s a really comfortable feeling,” Barnes said of having two quality starting pitchers. “You feel really confident going into games. It’s nice to have two different pitchers to throw two different games a week.”
Lescher, listed at 6 feet 3, 210 pounds, will pitch for the University of Pennsylvania.
“[Barnes and Lescher are] our No. 1 and 2, and you can pick [which] one [is No. 1]. We’re counting on them to do a lot this year. If they pitch like they did tonight, we’ll win a lot of games.”
--- West Potomac baseball coach Jim Sullivan
“It’s a great advantage,” Lescher said. “It’s a great weapon for our team to have that 1-2 combo up there.”
Fellow Wolverine seniors A.J. Melvin and David Wagner will also play college baseball. Melvin will attend Washington & Jefferson College and Wagner will play for New York University.
West Potomac (2-2) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Leadoff batter Brett Schaefer doubled on a 0-2 pitch and freshman second baseman Luke Belanger reached on an error, which allowed a run to score. Junior designated hitter Tom Nicholson followed with an RBI double and junior outfielder Rocky Iboleon later stroked a run-scoring single.
T.C. Williams responded with a run in the bottom of the inning. Leadoff batter Pat Devine doubled down the third-base line on a 0-2 pitch and, two batters later, senior first baseman Tyler Ratliff delivered an RBI double down the third-base line.
The Titans went scoreless for the remainder of the contest, however, and did not produce another hit until the seventh inning, when JP McLaughlin led off the frame with a single. TC batters struck out 12 times, including eight of the looking variety.
“I think more so than anything, [the strikeouts are due to] a lack of seeing live pitching due to the way the weather has been this early season. We’ve been extremely limited,” T.C. Williams head coach Jim Blair said. “… They need to have the discipline. We are a heavy junior, senior team this year, so they’ve been through this before. Early season, you have to make adjustments at the plate in order to be successful and I think that’s where we did not do a great job tonight.”
Devine, a junior infielder who had one of the three TC hits, said the Titans need to get more aggressive at the plate.
“You can change your approach,” he said. “I think we’ve always had that problem; we need to be more aggressive. I’ve been here for two or three years and we’ve always had the problem of we just take too many pitches or just aren’t aggressive enough early in counts, and that’s one thing we’ve been trying to change this year.”
The loss dropped TC’s record to 0-2. Last season, the Titans, led by then-senior pitcher Alec Grosser, qualified for regionals for the first time since 2009. The Atlanta Braves selected Grosser in the 11th round of the 2013 Major League Baseball draft and the Titans are trying to discover who they are as a team without him.
“Because we’re an older group, I think the bar had been set last year,” Blair said. “But in saying that, as well, we’re still a team trying to find our identity without Alec Grosser and those are some big shoes to fill, obviously. As we progress through the season, hopefully we’ll have the opportunity for some guys to really step up for this ball team.”
Junior right-hander Jacob Katz started on the mound for the Titans and suffered the loss. He allowed three runs and five hits while walking one and striking out two in four innings.
Junior left-hander Brandon Beck pitched two innings for the Titans and sophomore Andrew Tovsky pitched one.
“Last year, we were afforded the luxury a little bit to put Alec up on the mound and kind of ride his coattails a little bit,” Blair said. “This year, the load has to be picked up evenly by all.”
Meanwhile, West Potomac, which finished second in last year’s Patriot District regular-season standings, has visions of winning the Conference 7 championship.
“Hate to write [our expectations] down, but we plan to beat Lake Braddock,” Sullivan said. “Our goal is to win the district.”
West Potomac will travel to face Lake Braddock, the defending region champion, at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 4.
T.C. Williams faces West Springfield at 6:30 p.m. tonight.