The rain fell for two weeks on Bradshaw Field at Langley High School. The grass turned a deep green, the bases washed white and the dugouts stayed empty. Although a series of make-up games crowd their May schedule, Coach Chuck Welsh knows it's only a matter of time before his Saxons make a run at their second Great Falls District championship in three years.
On a team full of talent and experience, perhaps the two players who will be called upon to carry the load are pitchers Robbert Hahny and Clay Van Doren. Based on past performances, these two right-handers are capable of bringing a lot of sunshine to any coach's program.
"When you talk about us," Welsh said, "You have to start with those two. The others complement them."
The others include outfielder Nick Lashutka (hitting .382 through Langley's first 11 games), third baseman/relief pitcher Brett Boehly (.555, one home run), second baseman Scott Hemric and pitcher Chip Lippman.
The defense centers around Brian Shabosky. He is the shortstop many consider to be the best player in Northern Virginia, and his .457 average confirms his offensive skills. Shabosky recently signed a letter-of-intent to attend Wake Forest and already has a "major league glove," according to Welsh. "Shabosky is so exceptional defensively," said Van Doren, "I just pitch and hope they hit the ball to short."
Pitching, however, is the barometer of a team's strength, particularly in high school, where most clubs are desperately looking for one stopper. Having two experienced arms is a luxury Welsh doesn't take for granted.
After 11 games, Hahny is 4-0 this season following a 5-1 record last year and a 3.25 ERA. Van Doren, shelved for two weeks this year because of a severely sprained ankle, is 2-1 this year, but last season was 5-2 with a 2.80 ERA. Together, they led the Saxons to a 15-6 record and a berth in the Northern Regional final, where they lost to West Springfield.
This season, the Saxons were 9-2 overall, 6-2 in the district entering this week's games.
Both pitchers are big, but Van Doren said the comparison stops there.
"We are total contrasts on the mound," he said.
Hahny, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior, is a power pitcher. He relies on his fastball to get hitters out, using a curve to set up his main pitch. A leader on the field, Hahny also is quarterback of the football team and a .300-hitting third baseman when not pitching.
Van Doren, a 6-0, 175-pound senior honor student, concedes he lives "by deception." As a right-handed version of the Orioles' Scott McGregor, Van Doren changes speeds and deliveries to keep hitters off balance. Aside from the decisions he makes on the mound, he soon will have to decide on his plans for next year. Rice University, Harvard and Cornell are interested in making Van Doren a part of their pitching staffs.
Lippman, the third starter, pitched well in Van Doren's absence and has a 3-1 record. Boehly is the player Van Doren calls the "secret of the team" because of his clutch hitting and powerful appearances in short relief.
One reason for the Saxons' success is that they are not strangers to each other.
Van Doren, Hahny, Boehly and Shabosky played together as 12-year-olds on a team in McLean that advanced to the semifinals of the Southeast Region -- two victories from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. -- before losing. Three years later, the same four led their Babe Ruth team to the Virginia state championship.
As freshmen and sophomores, they led Langley to the 1984 Great Falls championship, but Madison took the title last year. The entire infield from that championship team is back this season.
"We just know we can count on each other," said Shabosky. "When things get tough, we know someone will pull us through."
Assistant coach Wayne Cook agrees. "Different people pick us up in different games," he said. "Because of the years the players have spent together, there is no panic if things get rocky."