Unlike the nine other teams in the upcoming 16-year-old Babe Ruth World Series in Purcellville, the Greater Loudoun Lions, as the designated host team, did not have to qualify for tournament play. But that doesn't mean the Lions backed their way into the series, either.
Greater Loudoun won eight of its last nine games in the regular season and, Coach Sam Plank says, has really come together in practices leading up to the event.
"We're definitely playing really well right now," Plank said. "I think we're ready. We just have to show up during the World Series the way I know we can."
Left-hander Casey Hartman (Potomac Falls) will be the team's starting pitcher -- he will throw the team's opener at 8 p.m. Saturday against Mobile, Ala. -- and is slated to start again on Wednesday. Chris Dzurilla (Stone Bridge) has worked his way into the No. 2 slot in the rotation, and other probable starters include Joey Devlin (Broad Run) and Scott Van Dusseldorp (Heritage).
When Hartman isn't on the mound he will be in center field, one of four players who isn't likely to rest at any point during the series. Others not expected to come out of the lineup are cleanup hitter Ben Brawley (Loudoun County), who should play catcher and first base, right fielder and leadoff batter Rusty Smith (Heritage) and left fielder James Timbers (Stone Bridge).
"Those four guys are really swinging the bat well," Plank said. "And that's something we're going to need."
Also, expect to see some combination of Devlin, Brawley, David Ball (Stone Bridge), Wade Gelbert (Loudoun Valley), Conor Mullee (Broad Run) and Jon Mike Richards (Loudoun County) solidifying the infield defense.
"When we're playing well overall, it's usually because our defense is playing well," Plank said. "That's been our biggest strength. We've been streaky at the plate at times, but we've played solid defense all summer. And one big advantage: We have a lot of kids who can rotate and play different positions. That could be critical as the tournament goes on.
"I had a great time being around this team for 40 games this summer. You can tell they really enjoy playing together and have had a lot of fun. But now we're ready to get serious."