With the last out made Wednesday night at Colonial Forge in the Virginia AAA Northwest Region baseball semifinals, and the subsequent dogpile unraveled, Patriot senior Josh Morrison sprawled in the outfield and soaked in the fact that his second-year program had qualified for the state tournament.
“I kind of drifted off by myself and just laid down and took the moment in,” said Morrison, a Pitt-turned-George Mason recruit whose team will play at Hylton at 6 p.m. Friday in the region championship. “It was pretty surreal knowing that win locked up a state berth.”
There was a lot for the outfielder to absorb, from the fact that the Pioneers (19-5) followed up the regional appearance from their inaugural season with a state berth this spring — the first in the school’s brief history in any sport — and how he perhaps could have not been in position to help the team given a certain behavioral misstep.
Other than Morrison, senior pitcher Nick Brown (formerly of Brentsville), catcher Braedon Jewett (also from Brentsville) and senior infielder Devon Annunzi (ex-Stonewall Jackson), none of the Patriot players last year had varsity experience. That team, without seniors, went 15-8 and qualified for regionals, losing in the first round, 4-3, to Forest Park.
That was a plenty good enough finish for Patriot Coach Sammy Serrano to advance his “DRS” — district, regional, state — agenda this season.
“I think that just goes to show you how much work we put into our program and how much it paid off,” said Morrison, whose team edged North Stafford, 3-2, in the first round of regionals and won at George Washington-Danville, 4-1, and at Colonial Forge, 3-2, to reach the final. Morrison went 3 for 4 with two doubles and two stolen bases in the semifinal win.
“Since we started [in the fall of 2011], the only thing we’ve talked about is going to a state tournament,” Serrano said. “That was going to be the gold standard here and getting ourselves where we’re in a position to contend for a state championship year in and year out, one of those programs that people not only in Northern Virginia know but people in the state know.”
Region championship opponent Hylton (17-7) reached the state semifinals last season and opened this spring as one of the highest-ranked teams in the Washington area. Yet Patriot beat the Bulldogs both last season, 4-3, in its first-ever game, and this season, 3-1.
Even though the teams are in different districts, there is built-in familiarity between the Prince William County schools because Serrano and Patriot Athletic Director Brad Qualls were Hylton teammates, graduating in 1995, winning 22 consecutive games in reaching the state semifinals together in 1994 in that school’s early years. Serrano was All-Met as a senior.
“[Serrano] got emotional last game going over there and seeing where he started and everything,” Morrison said. “He wants to go over there and show them why we deserve what we’ve worked so hard for and why we’re a team to be reckoned with.”
In the semifinal win at Colonial Forge that earned the Pioneers the state berth, Brown gave up a run in the first inning and none thereafter but had to be pulled after the sixth because he had reached his innings limit. He gave up four hits, struck out seven and walked one. Sophomore Jacob Christian, who had been sent down to the junior varsity team this season to get more work, wriggled Patriot out of a jam in the seventh to seal the win. Sophomore third baseman Nate Eikhoff had a two-run double.
The Patriot-Hylton winner will host the Northern Region runner-up Tuesday in the state quarterfinals. The Patriot-Hylton loser will play at the Northern champion. Oakton (20-4) and Lake Braddock (21-4) play in the Northern Region final at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Madison.
“I just think we could be that fairy tale team,” Morrison said.
NUMBER CRUNCH: 15
Woodgrove junior varsity baseball players elevated to the varsity this season the week after spring break when 10 varsity players were dismissed from the team for violating school policy. Despite that turnover, the Wolverines, a third-year program, won their Region II semifinal Thursday night at Potomac Falls to qualify for the state tournament.
—Briar Woods forward Nick Der-Hacopian scored the decisive goal against Park View to lift the Falcons to a 2-1 win in the Region II boys’ soccer semifinals. They will meet Tuscarora in the region final Friday night.
—Briar Woods freshman Rayven Conner scored a goal and assisted two others in her team’s 3-0 win over Tuscarora in the Region II girls’ soccer semifinals. The Falcons will play Woodgrove in the region final Friday night.
—Woodgrove junior catcher Rachel Harris singled with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 2-1 win over Fauquier in the Region II softball semifinals. The Wolverines will play at Powhatan on Friday in the region final.
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
No. 5 Yorktown at No. 4 Chantilly in the Northern Region girls’ soccer final at 4 p.m. According to results reported to The Post, Chantilly has won the last six games in the series, from 2005 to 2011, by a combined 19-3 score. But Yorktown knocked off undefeated and top-ranked Stone Bridge, 2-1 in overtime, to reach the championship.