Battlefield ace Jake Agnos could have come undone the moment his first offering of the fifth inning caught Richard Ortiz’s bat flush. It was the first home run he had given up all year, and suddenly 6A South region champion Hylton trailed by just one run in Friday’s opening 6A state semifinal at Robinson.
Instead, Agnos didn’t flinch.
“There was no thought that I was going to come out, and I don’t think that thought was in Coach’s mind,” Agnos said. “That’s something I’ve been used to all year: finishing what I started.”
Agnos responded with an authoritative strike on his next pitch, then picked up back-to-back strikeouts to help close the inning. The senior southpaw turned away six of seven Hylton batters in the final two innings to go the distance in a 2-1 victory that vaulted the Bobcats into Saturday’s state championship game.
Agnos, an East Carolina commit, finished with 10 strikeouts and three walks to improve to 11-0 on the season.
“You flip him the ball and you know what you’re going to get,” Battlefield Coach Jay Burkhart said. “He’s a bulldog.”
Agnos’s steadiness compensated for a Battlefield offense that squandered scoring opportunities all afternoon. Against a Hylton pitching staff that issued seven walks, the Bobcats (23-4) left 10 runners stranded. The troubling trend started in the first inning, when Battlefield failed to get on the scoreboard with the bases loaded.
It finally broke through in the top of the fifth. Battlefield senior Oakley Herrewig squeaked a single under junior shortstop Jaran Davis’s outstretched glove, scoring E’Lan Goodwin from third base for the game’s first run. Hylton nearly pulled off a double play on Sam Scott’s ensuing infield drive, but the throw to first was a beat late, allowing Brady Harju to race home and double the Bobcats’ lead heading into the sixth.
That’s when Ortiz delivered his rapid-fire response. The junior catcher uncorked his stocky, powerful build into Agnos’s first pitch of the fifth inning, sending the high fastball soaring over the left field fence for the Bulldogs’ first run. It marked Agnos’s first home run surrendered since his 21-strikeout performance against Osbourn Park last year.
“That’s just a learning experience,” Agnos said. “I think if that had been the first game of the season, that would have been tougher to bounce back, but since we’re so deep, that one didn’t really matter to me.”
Hylton (16-6) nearly tied it after Agnos struck out the next two hitters. Senior Ryan Billy bounced a hit over the pitcher’s head and beat the throw to first, but Harju issued a quick throw home to easily beat out Colin Verberg from third base.
Battlefield will make its first state championship appearance Saturday against the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between 6A North region champion Chantilly and Cosby.
“I think we’re just getting used to the atmosphere, and we’ll come out tomorrow and be good to go,” Agnos said. “Our approach has gotten better as the season has gone on, so top to bottom I think we’re going to go out there and kill it tomorrow.”
The moment Forrest Wagner crossed home plate for what ended up being the decisive run in Chantilly’s 4-1 win against Cosby in the second 6A semifinal at Robinson, he turned and emphatically gestured toward second base. Standing there was Garrett Snedeker, a senior who began the spring with little to no promises of playing time after missing all of last season with a shoulder injury.
Since then, Snedeker has become a reliable force in the No. 9 spot of Chantilly’s batting order. Friday, he was in the middle of the action again with his second-inning rope to center field. The play was ruled a fielding error after the ball glanced off a Cosby player’s outstretched glove, but it was all the Chargers needed to spark a four-run inning.
“It’s all mental and being ready to do your job when you get the chance,” Snedeker said. “You’ve got to stay confident at the plate and that inning was big in getting us rolling.”
Another fielding error by Cosby (14-7) and a Brett Norwood RBI single scored the other two runs that put Chantilly in the driver’s seat early. Jared DiCesare took care of the rest for the Chargers (24-2), allowing just three hits in seven innings to send Chantilly to its 18th straight win and third consecutive state final.