Brett McColley was a late choice to start the decisive game of the District 17 American Legion baseball tournament yesterday. He also was a good choice.

McColley threw a six-hitter to lead Springfield Post 176 to a 3-1 victory over Centreville Post 1995 in the District 17 championship game at Oakton High. The victory gave Springfield (19-10) its fifth straight berth in the Virginia Legion tournament, which starts Wednesday with Springfield's 10 a.m. game against Winchester Post 21 at Courtland High School.

Springfield has appeared in the state championship game two of the past four years, without winning the title. But its players considered themselves underdogs to Centreville, which went 19-5 during the regular season and was undefeated in the tournament before Springfield won, 13-4, Saturday, forcing yesterday's game.

Springfield Manager Al Vaxmonsky took a gamble in starting McColley, who had made only three starts this summer, none lasting longer than five innings.

"When he told me [on Saturday night] I was nervous, but when I got here today I was ready," said McColley, a graduate of Lee High who is headed to Division III Lynchburg College this fall. "I just got a good night's sleep and came out here ready."

McColley struck out eight Centreville batters and walked two. He did have one rough inning--the fourth--when he hit two batters and threw two wild pitches. But on the second wild pitch, catcher John Borchers threw out Centreville base runner Chris Hotchkiss at the plate to end the inning.

Centreville scored its only run in the seventh inning, when Joe Dooley doubled to drive in Jake Fiedler.

"About the third inning, unless something happened to him, I knew he was going to go the whole nine innings," Vaxmonsky said. "He was in a rhythm and was hitting his spots well."

Springfield scored all of its runs in the fourth inning. Colin Smith led off with a double and moved to third on Tim Grant's single. Grant stole second, and Smith drew a wild throw to third, allowing him to score.

Grant moved to third on the play, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Nate Guilman. Springfield added another run on two walks, an error and a wild pitch.