Baseball: Northeast’s Jordan Sanders returns from broken leg; O’Connell’s Rafi Vazquez finds stride in no-hitter

April 2

On a brisk Friday night in October, Jordan Sanders was jogging downfield in a football game at Arundel when an opposing player was blocked into his right leg, sending him to the ground.

At first, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound junior didn’t think his leg was broken. Then he tried to stand up and the leg wobbled.

“It was that Anderson Silva-type of deal where he goes to put pressure on his leg, and it’s sideways,” Northeast baseball Coach Adam Bolling said.

Sanders, the ace of Northeast’s pitching staff, describes it differently: “It was a nightmare,” he said.

In the emergency room, Sanders was told he had suffered a compound fracture of both his tibia and fibula. Doctors surgically inserted a 12-inch metal rod from the bottom of his knee to the top of his foot, screwing it into place at each end. The timetable for his recovery was four to six months.

“My first thought was that he’s not going to be around this season at all,” Bolling said, “or certainly not going to be able to contribute, given the extent of that injury.”

But Sanders was adamant that he would return in time for the beginning of baseball season. By February, he was cleared to start practicing. And last week, he had a double and two RBI while also picking up the win on the mound in the Eagles’ 5-4 win over North County.

“That first week, I honestly thought I’d never be able to walk again,” said Sanders, who has drawn interest from Delaware and Towson, among others. “I had to sit in one spot all the time, and I really did not think I’d be anywhere near where I am today: running, jumping, everything.”

Sanders attended physical therapy sessions three days per week to regain strength and balance in the leg. He also got an emotional lift from Bolling, who saw the junior’s determination and decided to add some motivation of his own.

Soon after the injury, Bolling handed Sanders an unopened baseball, still wrapped in plastic, and told him to bring it with him when he started on opening day. Sanders set the ball on his nightstand. It was the first thing he saw every morning when he woke up and the last thing he saw every night before he went to sleep.

“If you set that goal, you’re going to heal that much quicker,” Bolling said. “We tried to instill that positive attitude in him.”

Sanders brought the ball to Northeast’s game against Old Mill on March 24, when he took the mound with tears in his eyes and didn’t factor in the decision as the Eagles (3-1) came from behind to win, 6-5.

Sanders has the potential to be one of the top pitchers in Anne Arundel County this year, and he says his once-broken right leg has given him a fresh perspective.

“I’d say I used to kind of be a clown,” he said. “But I kind of realized you can make a nice play, and then the very next play you could be done for good. I take every play more seriously now. You never know when it’s going to be the last one.”

Knights’ Vazquez finds footing in no-hitter

O’Connell sophomore Rafi Vazquez was handed the ball as the ace and opening day starter for the Knights, but after his first two outings, the right-hander still hadn’t earned a win.

On Tuesday, Vasquez finally threw the type of game that Coach Kyle Padgett had expected when he named Vasquez the No. 1 starter in O’Connell’s rotation.

The Knights (3-4) defeated Bishop Ireton, 6-1, in WCAC play as Vazquez pitched a complete-game no-hitter with nine strikeouts.

He walked the first batter he faced, who eventually scored on a sacrifice bunt in the second inning, but Vasquez yielded just two more walks the next five innings.

“I didn’t have my fastball control in the first three innings, but my curveball was working,” Vazquez said. “I had to go back to the mechanics, and pitching coach Rob Riley helped me a lot with that.”

The sophomore has also helped his own cause at the plate, hitting three home runs through seven games after batting .220 last season.

“Before the summer I would strike at the ball and end up late on everything,” Vazquez said. “I’ve learned to keep my foot down and not keep it up as often.”

The Knights have three more games this week, and Vazquez expects to pitch relief innings Sunday against No. 2 St. John’s.

“This win is just a new chapter in our book,” Vazquez said. “We washed those two losses away and we’re going to keep moving forward with a new attitude.”

Wakefield ends losing streak

The Warriors defeated Mount Vernon, 3-2, on Friday to put an end to a 21-game losing streak that included last year’s 0-18 campaign.

Wakefield (1-1) junior right-hander Patrick Girard picked up the complete-game win with nine strikeouts and allowed three hits and one earned run.

Senior Jalen Carver smashed a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the seventh inning that lifted the Warriors to their first win since a 7-3 victory over Hayfield on May 5, 2012.

“We have three starting freshmen and this is a very tight-knit group,” Wakefield Coach George Baker said. “We don’t have a lot of extra arms but we rely on good defense and hitting.”

With just 11 players on the squad the Warriors have one of the smallest lineups in the Northern Virginia and only two of the kids play travel ball.

“We’re not done yet,” Baker said. “We have two games this week and we’re playing it one pitch at a time to see what happens.”

The Post Top 10

For the second straight week, DeMatha sits at No. 1 after outscoring opponents 27-7 through four games. . . . The Cadets bounced back from three losses in Florida to defeat then-No. 2 Lake Braddock behind Kyle Lefalar’s six shutout innings . . . Stone Bridge right-hander JB Bukauskas shut out Fairfax on Tuesday and has 22 punchouts on the season . . . Gaithersburg blanked Whitman, 4-0, and has yet to allow a run this season . . . After a pair of one-run victories, La Plata has won its two past games against Lackey and McDonough by a combined score of 23-5 . . . Cody Morris struck out 10 batters in Reservoir’s 9-2 win over Marriotts Ridge.

1. DeMatha (4-0) LW: 1

2. St. John’s (5-3) LW: 3

3. La Plata (5-0) LW: 4

4. Poolesville (3-0) LW: 5

5. Lake Braddock (3-1) LW: 2

6. Paul VI Catholic (6-1) LW: 6

7. Riverdale Baptist (7-1) LW: 7

8. Reservoir (3-0) LW: 8

9. Stone Bridge (2-1) LW: 9

10. Gaithersburg (3-0) LW: NR

On the bubble: Chesapeake (5-0), Madison (1-1), Woodgrove (2-0)

Records through Tuesday.

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