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Patriot baseball edges Freedom-South Riding to extend unbeaten start in Virginia AAA Cedar Run District

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Consider the change for Patriot junior catcher Braedon Jewett from last season to this:

He left a successful Virginia AA Brentsville program to enroll at Virginia AAA Patriot, a new school with no seniors. His new coach is a former professional catcher who was a second-round major league draft pick. And on his new home field, Jewett has an area the size of a dog park between him and the backstop, a gulf in which one passed ball could mean multiple runners racing home.

Given that Jewett had weathered all that change just fine, maybe it was no big deal for him to be at bat in the bottom of the seventh with two runners on and no outs in a tie game at home Tuesday night against Freedom-South Riding.

Jewett got down a bunt — just the second time he was asked to do so this season — that resulted in a throwing error for a 2-1 win that kept the upstart Pioneers unbeaten in the Cedar Run District.

So now he can scratch “game-winning bunt” off the list of accomplishments at his new school.

“I saw the curveball coming in and just went back to what we’ve been practicing since February,” Jewett said. “I just tried to push it to third base, hoping it stayed down, stayed fair.”

Patriot (9-2, 3-0), which has players from Brentsville, Battlefield and Stonewall Jackson, continues to find ways to win games. Coach Sammy Serrano decided he was not going to allow the Pioneers’ youth to be a crutch.

Serrano was a student at Hylton when that school opened with mostly freshmen on the baseball team. With Patriot having sophomores and juniors from accomplished programs, Serrano was so confident in their ability that the team has taken a “DRS” approach — districts, regionals, states.

“I told our guys we have eight or nine guys that played varsity last year…and that spoke volumes on our baseball maturity and we had to strive for excellence and perfection in setting a culture that way,” said Serrano, whose team is 6-0 against fellow Prince William County schools, including a season-opening win over No. 4 Hylton. “Whether that was the right thing or not, the kids bought in.”

“I don’t think ‘No seniors’ comes into play in that [DRS] motto,” said Patriot junior right-hander Nick Brown, who stuck out 10 in pitching a complete game. “We just don’t think about it. We’re just a regular team like anybody else. Just because we don’t have seniors doesn’t really make a difference.”

Patriot took a 1-0 lead in the first when sophomore Mason Diotte doubled with one out, moved to third on junior Zack Martin’s two-out infield single and scored on a throwing error.

The Pioneers managed only one more hit off Freedom senior Andrew Lamont until the bottom of the seventh, when sophomore Richard Carlson led off with a single, took second when freshman Eric Sloper was hit by a pitch and scored when Jewett laid down his bunt and Lamont misfired to third, allowing Carlson to score with the decisive run. Lamont struck out seven and walked one.

Freedom (7-5, 1-2), which had six hits and stranded seven runners, scored its run in the fourth when senior Matt Malacane led off with a triple and scored on a groundout by senior Joey Plesce. Malacane had three hits.

The Eagles had runners on second and third with one out in the sixth and did not score, then they had a man on second — junior Gurjot Singh, who had led off with a pinch-hit single — with one out in the seventh before Brown fanned the last two batters. Five of his 10 strikeouts were on called strikes.

Brown did not decide until June, close to the deadline, to transfer to Patriot from Brentsville. The quality of players headed to the new school convinced him.

“The talent pool just really swayed me,” Brown said. “When I saw everyone else coming here, I knew we had the chance to do something big.”

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