Gaithersburg baseball coach Jason Woodward held out hope when the Trojans began the season with just one victory in their first five games.
The young team's slow start did not look as bad on the field as it did in the box scores, Woodward insisted, and a late-season push was not out of the question.
Woodward's prediction was accurate, as the Trojans have rallied behind solid starting pitching and sound defense to enter the season's final week with 10 wins in their last 12 games. Gaithersburg boasted a 12-7 record entering Wednesday night's game against Einstein -- which ended too late to be included in this edition.
"Slowly but surely, we're getting together," said Woodward, whose team recently posted consecutive shutouts against Richard Montgomery and Seneca Valley. "We've been doing stuff right."
At the heart of Gaithersburg's success has been junior pitcher Austin Hurd. The hard-throwing right-hander boasts a 5-1 record and 1.74 ERA -- he has pitched a complete game in each of his victories -- and last week yielded just one run in wins over Paint Branch and Richard Montgomery. Hurd -- now in his third varsity season -- struck out 20 total batters over the two games without yielding a walk.
"Austin has become our number one pitcher in terms of innings pitched," Woodward said of Hurd, who has 44 strikeouts in 441/3 innings.
The only thing that appears to be slowing down Hurd has been a recent back injury. Woodward hopes to start Hurd in the Trojans 4A West Region quarterfinal on Friday but said a pulled back muscle has left the pitcher's status as questionable.
Gaithersburg senior Ian Marshall has been equally dominant on the mound, posting a 3-1 record with 0.88 ERA.
The Trojans play Walter Johnson in the first round of the tournament with second-seed Damascus awaiting the winner.
Barons Chasing History
Bethesda-Chevy Chase enters the postseason with a shot at returning to the baseball state tournament for the first time since back-to-back appearances in 1988-'89.
The Barons (14-2) have won 12 straight games behind the pitching and hitting of sophomores Will Hanlon and Ben Regan-Sachs and senior Rick Freeman. They have not lost a game since a 10-0 defeat to Paint Branch on March 31.
Last Saturday, Bethesda-Chevy Chase earned one of its biggest wins of the season: an 8-7 victory over hard-hitting Damascus.
"That was a real nice win for us," said Barons Coach Bill Wright, now in his 21st year at the school. "We've definitely been on a roll."
Freeman and Regan-Sachs each boast 5-0 records while Hanlon is currently 4-2. Freeman guided the Barons past Damascus by going 3 for 4 with a pair of home runs to improve his batting average to .434. Hanlon is leading the team with a .558 batting average while Regan-Sachs is not far behind with a .474 average.
A New Streak
After seeing its seven year unbeaten streak against Montgomery County teams come to an end, Whitman's girls lacrosse team hopes to extend its run of postseason success.
The dominant program in Montgomery County had won 96 consecutive games since 1997 before falling to Damascus, 9-6, earlier this season. The Vikings (9-4) have since won eight straight against county foes and look to claim their fifth region title when the tournament begins this week.
"We've started a new streak," said Vikings Coach Mary Pat Veihmeyer.
Whitman will have to overcome a rash of injuries to continue their postseason success. Four starters are currently sidelined with injuries, including senior leading scorer Devon Dow.
Dow, who has committed to play for Ohio University next year, tore her Achilles tendon in a game two weeks ago.
"We've got big shoes to fill," Veihmeyer said.
The Vikings have managed to get past county opponents but not in the dominating fashion of previous seasons. They recently knocked off Walter Johnson, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Churchill by a combined five goals.
"Usually we've won by a little more of a margin," Veihmeyer said. "I feel like they have kind of had the games in control but have let the other teams back in it."
Whitman earned a first round bye and play the Blair-Wootton winner in the second round.