One team will end its decades-long title drought while the other will lament an opportunity lost after tonight's Virginia AAA Northern Region baseball championship.
Robinson (19-5), which hosts Hayfield (14-11) at 7:30 p.m., has not won a region title since 1980. Hayfield is making the first championship game appearance in the Alexandria school's 36-year history.
The game is also a matchup of teams from the Patriot District, which has not had a region champion since Lake Braddock won it in 1999 and wasn't, area coaches said before the season, expected to have one this year, either.
"It's probably a little unexpected," Robinson Coach Bill Evers said of the all-Patriot final. "All the talk before the season was about how the Liberty and Concorde teams had the edge. But I always thought we were a little underrated. I knew the top four teams in our district could play with anyone in the region."
The edge tonight would seem to go to the Rams, who won both regular season meetings (7-4 and 5-4), have not lost a game at home this season (10 in a row dating to last year) and might have hard-throwing 6-foot-5 right-hander Brad Kledzik on the mound. But nothing Hayfield does anymore is surprising, considering the Hawks entered the tournament with a .500 record but knocked off two of the top teams (Langley and Herndon).
Both Robinson and Hayfield will play in the state tournament next week. Tonight's winner will host the Eastern Region runner-up on Tuesday; the loser will play at the Eastern Region champion.
Gar-Field Likes Its Chances
Gar-Field had gone 0-6 this season against the top softball teams in Prince William County -- Osbourn, Hylton and Stonewall Jackson -- but Coach Mike McDonald continued his simple mantra into the playoffs: Don't hurt your own chances, and anything can happen.
The happening for the Indians was a 2-1 win at defending state champion Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday in the Virginia AAA Northwestern Region semifinals. That sewed up their first state tournament berth since 2001. Gar-Field (16-7) will play at No. 1 Osbourn at 6 tonight in the region championship.
Gar-Field senior pitcher Becky Horesky recorded no strikeouts in the shutout Wednesday, so the Indians, who had not beaten Stonewall in years, indeed made the routine plays behind her.
"I think every kid on the field touched the ball at least once," McDonald said of his team's defense, led by senior shortstop Sarah Malene.
Junior Lauren Firich and Horesky each drove in a run in the third inning.
Stonewall Jackson's bus first was blocked by a train, then it broke down altogether, so the Raiders didn't arrive in Danville for their 7 p.m. Northwestern Region baseball semifinal against George Washington High School until 6:45.
Stonewall collected itself to pull out a 2-0 win and earn its first state tournament berth since 1971. The Raiders (15-10), who have won 11 of their last 12 games, play at Osbourn at 6 tonight in the region final. It will be the fourth meeting between the Cedar Run District rivals this season.
"All of us on the bus were sitting there looking at each other [thinking], this is not good," Stonewall Coach Andy Devitt said. "It was a very stressful day. Our kids did a great job of staying focused."
Senior Garrett Smith pitched a five-hitter and senior Chris Conner doubled home a run in the fourth inning.
Jarboe Is Leaving Oakton
Chris Jarboe announced his resignation as Oakton softball coach following Monday night's 5-3 loss to Robinson in the quarterfinals of the Northern Region tournament.
Jarboe led the Cougars to a 136-57 record in his eight seasons, posting 20-win campaigns in three of the past four. His best season was 2001, when the Cougars reached the state final after winning the school's only region softball title. He said he is moving back to Idaho this summer to be closer to his mother, brother and sister.
Special correspondent Paul Bergeron contributed to this report.