The Woodlawn Little League of Alexandria grabbed a piece of local baseball history last week when all-star teams from all four of its age groups won District 9 championships in Northern Virginia.
Woodlawn is the first club from District 9 (which includes the eastern part of Fairfax County plus Alexandria, Woodbridge, Dale City and Fredericksburg) to sweep the regional championships. The four age groups include Major League (11- and 12-year-olds), the 13-year-old League, Senior League (14- and 15-year-olds) and Big League (16- to 18-year-olds).
By virtue of the regional championships, all four Woodlawn teams advanced to state competition.
Woodlawn completed its champsionship sweep last Thursday when the Major Leaguers came from behind to defeat West Springfield 7-6.
The Major League team had Woodlawn coaches worried, since most club members feared it was Woodlawn's weakest team. The record supported their fears: In 19 years, Woodlawn Major Leaguers had never won a title.
"Most of us thought they lacked pitching," said Paul Chaloux, 22, a coach and publicity coordinator for the club. "In fact, we didn't expect them to win a game."
Instead, the youngsters won four straight games to claim their title and fall in line with the other three Woodlawn champions.
As it turned out, Chaloux and other club members needn't have worried about the team's pitching. Craig Brooks and Mark Palmisano split pitching duties for the four-game tournament, with each pitching two games. Not only did Brooks and Palmisano win each time out, they threw complete games. Brooks made one of his wins a no-hitter just for good measure.
The pitching was just one mark of the overall performance by the Major Leaguers. "They turned out to have a really balanced attack," said a pleasantly surprised Chaloux. "The infield was really strong; they made very few errors in the tournament."
For a while in the final game, it was touch-and-go for the Major Leaguers.
West Springfield batted first and immediately hopped on Palmisano for three runs. In the bottom of the first inning, Woodlawn's Shane Scott singled and eventually scored on an error to close the gap to 3-1.
In the top of the second, Palmisano held West Springfield scoreless, and in the bottom half of the inning, Woodlawn broke loose.
Woodlawn's Norris Braxton singled, Greg Harris walked, and Scott got on base on an error that brought Braxton in for one run. Then, with Harris and Scott on base, Brooks cracked his 11th home run of the season and the second of the tournament to put Woodlawn ahead 5-3.
Woodlawn added a run in the bottom of the third when Darrin Brubacher doubled and then scored on Greg Beal's single.
But in the top of the fourth, West Springfield scored three runs to tie the game 6-6. Two of those runs came when West Springfield's Matt Arnold hit a double to left.
A double play killed a Woodlawn rally in the bottom of the fourth. But an inning later, Woodlawn's Brubacher scored the winning run when he scampered home from third base on a sacrifice fly by Braxton.
So far, Woodlawn has not done as well in the state meets as it did in the regional competition. Its Senior and Big league teams lost early in the state tournaments.
The 13-year-old league and the Major Leaguers were to begin tournament play this week. No scores were available by press time.