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Baseball: McLean upends top-ranked Lake Braddock

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The five-school Northern Virginia spring break baseball invitational that included three of the top seven ranked teams in the Washington area did not have an official name.

But after No. 7 McLean topped No. 1 Lake Braddock on Tuesday evening, Highlanders senior left-hander Brock Hunter could think of an apt description for the victory.

“It’s a pretty big deal,” said Hunter, who struck out five and walked two in the 5-2 home win over the previously unbeaten Bruins. “It just shows we can beat those kind of teams in the [postseason].”

McLean (6-4) had lost three straight before spanking West Springfield 19-0 on Monday and then topping Lake Braddock. The second of those three losses was an 8-6 Liberty District setback to Fairfax on Friday in which the Highlanders, because of walks and errors, allowed eight runs on only three hits.

Hunter pitched that game, and he acknowledges that a tight strike zone rattled him. McLean Coach John Thomas could see it in Hunter’s body language and mound demeanor.

Against Lake Braddock (9-1), however, Hunter dwelled on the next hitter and not the previous one. He needed that focus: The Bruins got the leadoff batter on base in four innings.

“That [Fairfax] game, there were a lot of errors and I couldn’t really throw a strike,” Hunter said. “I don’t think I handled myself very well, but I changed it up today. I just tried not to think about it. Just flush it.”

“He just absolutely put us on his back,” Thomas said. “It was fun to watch. He stayed unpredictable and had command really of four pitches. He just stayed out of any kind of pattern and kept them off balance. The tougher the spot, the better he got.”

McLean, playing its sixth game in eight days, scored two runs off Lake Braddock junior Thomas Rogers (Georgia) in the first inning and then did not get another runner on until the sixth, when the Highlanders tacked on three runs. Rogers left the game in the fifth after striking out nine.

McLean senior Tom Cresce went 3 for 3 with an RBI. Senior Hardy Cox drove in the go-ahead run in the sixth.

“We really didn’t hit a ball into the outfield all day,” Thomas said. “It was dinking and dunking, good base running and executing hit-and-runs and getting bunts down.”

In the last two games in the tournament, McLean had to start its third-string catcher, freshman Caleb Beatty. Cox and backup Hunter Eckrod were unavailable to catch because of injuries. Beatty caught Virginia signee Josh Sborz on Monday and Coastal Carolina signee Hunter on Tuesday.

The Highlanders are idle until a home game April 10 against Jefferson. Lake Braddock next plays April 11 at Annandale.

No. 2 Oakton won two of three games in the spring break tournament, beating McLean and West Springfield and losing to Lake Braddock.

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