Oakton pitcher Tommy Lopez didn’t wallow in disappointment after giving up a run in the sixth inning Monday against Chantilly, even though it tied the game and appeared to give the Chargers late momentum.
Lopez was named the Virginia Conference 5 player of the year in a ceremony before the game, a title he knew honored his efforts at all positions this season.
So he grabbed a bat and took a few practice swings — then crushed a leadoff single up the middle.
That type of resilience, Oakton Coach Justin Janis would later say, has picked the Cougars up all season. It seemed like a small development at the time, but the single inspired a barrage of runs in the sixth inning and Lopez was dominant on the mound in the seventh to lift Oakton to a 5-1 win over Chantilly in the Conference 5 title game in Vienna.
“I wanted to throw a shutout tonight. I knew if I threw a shutout, we’d win. I let up one run and I kind of got angry at myself,” Lopez said. “So I just kind of came up and I knew [the sixth] was the inning for us to win it. . . . I was the leadoff guy, so I just had to get on.”
It was the second consecutive league title for Oakton (14-7), but the Cougars had to find a different way Monday against a team that had beaten them twice this season. Chantilly simply didn’t have an answer for the left-handed Lopez, who allowed just three hits and struck out four in one of his best performances of the season.
“He’s kind of been that guy all year for us,” Janis said. “He’s the conference player of the year, and tonight he played like it.”
Chantilly (13-7) received a pair of hits from senior Mike Sciorra, including a two-out RBI double off Lopez in the sixth that tied the game at 1. Sciorra had ruined Lopez’s no-hit bid in the fourth inning and then followed that by spoiling the shutout bid two innings later.
An irked Lopez started the following inning with the aforementioned single, and Oakton loaded the bases with a single from Dale Good and a hard-fought walk from sophomore Chris Ivener. A pair of base hits from Kyle Christyand Ryan Davis scored two runs, and two more scored after Chantilly botched a routine groundball with two outs.
Lopez followed by overpowering three hitters in the seventh, retiring the side by getting ahead with his two-seam fastball just as he did all night long. He was mobbed by teammates near the mound shortly after.
“It would’ve been sweet to throw a no-no,” Lopez said. “Getting to play our [conference] final on Memorial Day . . . there’s nothing like it.”