Hard to believe that a 12-win team with a district title in its reach could be on the verge of unraveling, but that's where the Gar-Field baseball players found themselves last week after a 3-1 loss to Forest Park, on the heels of a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Potomac the previous week.
So, on Wednesday and Thursday, Gar-Field Coach Jay Burkhart shook up his practices, injecting a bit more frivolity (and pizza). Most of all, he reminded the Indians they're 12-4, not 4-12.
Make that 13-4 now after a 4-2 home win over Hylton on Friday that locked up the regular season Cardinal District title with one game to play. The Indians, 4-1 in the district, swept second-place Hylton (10-8, 3-2).
"Every part of the season has highs and lows, and I think we were at a low with the last two losses, not scoring a lot of runs, not hitting like we had been," Burkhart said.
"We were falling apart, we were getting away from it being fun," senior first baseman Robbie Miller said. "We were getting to the point almost where we were pointing fingers at each other."
In the win over Hylton, senior Marcus Nalls homered for the fourth time this season. Miller doubled in a run in the third, and Gar-Field tacked on two runs in the fifth, one on an error and the other on a bloop RBI single by junior Justin Martin.
Martin also pitched 12/3 innings in relief of sophomore left-hander Eddie West.
Hylton, which scratched out only two hits, loaded the bases in the sixth on three one-out walks but could push only one run across. The third out occurred on a freak play when the runner on third tried to score while Martin had his back to home. It took the Bulldogs out of the inning with a pinch-hitter at the plate.
"It isn't over yet," Hylton Coach John Colantuoni said. "With the pitching we have, we're going to be in ballgames."