The Chantilly baseball team was looking to win its 30th straight game at home entering Tuesday’s regional semifinal showdown with the Patriot Pioneers.
Senior shortstop Brett Norwood helped the Chargers do just that.
With the game deadlocked at 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Norwood delivered an infield single with the bases loaded to plate Cameron Boddie to set the Chargers’ field into a frenzy as they defeated Patriot 2-1 to move on to the 6A North regional finals as well as clinch a spot in the state tournament.
“I just wanted to hit something hard on the ground,” said Norwood. “I got down two strikes so I was just battling up there and I was happy I was able to hit something hard.”
The theme of the game for both sides was pitching and defense, as the 6A North Region Player of the Year, Chantilly’s Jared DiCesare, battled with Patriot’s Austin Gerber all night on the mound.
Early in the bottom of the first inning, the Chargers piled on three hits. A double by DiCesare and an infield hit by Matt Padeway had runners on first and second with two outs. Brady Ryan came up and ripped a single, but Patriot right fielder Addison Walker gunned down DiCesare trying to score from second to keep the game scoreless.
“Their pitcher [Gerber] tonight was tremendous,” said Chantilly head coach Kevin Ford. “You run into teams that get hot, and I’m really waiting for us to get hot.”
For Chantilly, DiCesare came into pitch from third base after starter Jake Pasquale was hit with a line drive on the ear which bloodied him, forcing him to be removed from the game. From there, DiCesare dealt for the Chargers.
“He always comes out and just deals for us,” said Norwood about his teammate. “We always have great confidence when he’s out on the mound because we know he’s going to put out great innings.”
Chantilly was able to strike first in the bottom of the third inning. After a quick first two outs, DiCesare ripped his second double of the game and then scored on a base hit by Norwood to give the Chargers the 1-0 lead.
From there, Chantilly’s defense took over the next couple of innings, as they got good play from Norwood at short and Chris Pitura at second base.
“We’ve played great defense all year,” said Ford. “That gives our pitchers confidence. They know they can go after guys and throw strikes because our guys behind them are going to make plays.”
Chantilly didn’t run into trouble until the top of the sixth when Hunter Meade got on with a one out single to left and then scored on a Walker double that hit off the base of the center field wall. Here the Charger defense proved big again, as the next batter, Gerber, lined one right at third baseman Ryan Krueger, who came on when Pasquale got hurt. Krueger then flipped to second to double off Walker and end the threat.
“Our third baseman Ryan Krueger came on and made a game-saving play,” said Ford. “He hasn’t even played third base a whole lot this year, but for him to come in and make that play was huge.”
That set up momentum for the Chargers leading up to the final inning. Boddie was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Garrett Snedeker was then walked to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Jared Enders sacrificed both runners over and DiCesare was walked intentionally which set up Norwood, who hit a ground ball that was stopped on a dive by the Patriot second baseman, whose throw home wasn’t in time and gave Chantilly the 2-1 victory.
DiCesare got the win for the Chargers as he threw five innings, allowing one earned run on two hits while striking out four. He also finished 2 for 3 at the plate with two doubles.
Forrest Wagner, Brady Ryan, Matt Padeway, Norwood, and DiCesare had all the hits for Chantilly. Norwood had both RBIs.
Patriot starter Gerber took the loss. He allowed two runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings pitched. He walked two and struck out seven.
Chantilly (22-2) will move on to face Battlefield at Battlefield High School for the regional championship on Friday, June 3.
“We’ve played some close games, and they’ll probably tell you we haven’t played as well recently as we should,” said Ford when asked about playing for the region championship. “But I’m hoping Friday it will all click.”