Colonial Forge 4, Halifax 2

When Colonial Forge senior Eddie Rubbo and his teammates laced four of the first seven pitches they saw for hits yesterday against Halifax in the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region baseball championship, it seemed as if the typically aggressive Eagles were going to tee off against the Comets.

As it turned out, it was the Eagles' short game that carried them to a 4-2 home victory and the first region title in the school's five-year history. Down 2-1, Colonial Forge tied the game on a bases-loaded balk in the fifth inning and scored twice in the sixth on a suicide squeeze (by sophomore Matt Fouch) and a wild pitch.

"That's baseball," said Colonial Forge Coach Shawn Szakelyhidi, whose free-swinging lineup notched 10 one-pitch at-bats through the first four innings and stranded nine runners for the game. "It's a funny sport. You can sit up there and bang it with the best of them, but at the same time, there comes a time when the little things are able to put you in a position to pull a game out."

The Eagles (18-5) will host Northern Region runner-up Lee at 6 tonight in a Virginia AAA quarterfinal. Halifax, from near the North Carolina border, stayed in Northern Virginia last night and will play at Northern Region champion Westfield at 6 tonight in another state quarterfinal.

Rubbo tossed a five-hitter, striking out eight and walking two, and he homered to open the bottom of the first. He allowed just one base runner over the final four innings.

Halifax (19-5) had taken a 2-1 lead in the second when juniors Chris Perkins and Ryan Gieselman each doubled around a walk to junior Clyde Brooks, who scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Steve Smith. For Rubbo and Colonial Forge's four other four-year varsity players -- Randy Hippeard, Jake Brown, Jack Ferrick and Josh Hankins -- the region title and state berth are not season highlights but program milestones. Both are firsts for the Stafford County school.

"We want to get our name out there in Virginia, that we mean something," Rubbo said. "Now that we're building a tradition, we have to hold it."

Only program founder Szakelyhidi has more years invested in the team than the five seniors.

"When I'm getting up at 5 o'clock in mid-November to go to a workout knowing that I've got 30 kids there waiting for me, it pays off now," the coach said. "It's just great to see them get rewarded for their hard work and dedication.

"This group of kids has an opportunity right now to pave the road for future classes that come through because they're the ones who are putting us on the map right now."