Every year on the eve of the Virginia Conference 6 baseball championship, Madison Coach Mark Gjormand takes his seniors out to dinner, a tradition that also has become a luxury of sorts for a team that has appeared in five of the past six title games. This year, as the senior quintet laughed and reminisced prior to Friday’s matchup with Fairfax, Gjormand noticed something different in Brian Eckert’s demeanor, as if the pitcher’s mind were somewhere else.
“Earlier that day, we had watched film from the time we lost to Fairfax [on April 10], when they scored four runs on him in the first,” Gjormand said. “We talk about turning the page, but there’s a reason I showed them that, and afterward, I knew Brian was going to be ready.”
The senior proceeded to put his stamp on Friday’s game, striking out nine and allowing just two hits to record a shutout in the No. 4 Warhawks’ 2-0 win against Fairfax in Vienna.
“I think I was trying too hard last time, so tonight, I just focused on hitting my stops, attacking the zone and letting my defense back me up,” Eckert said. “And that’s what happened.”
At times, it was Eckert who shut the door on the Rebels, twice ending an inning with a strikeout after a Fairfax batter had reached first base. On other occasions, his teammates backed him up — namely, Kyle Novak.
The freshman got the Warhawks (18-5) on the board with an RBI double to right field that scored Pete Nielsen in the first inning. Then in the fifth, after a ball bounced off a Madison player’s glove near first base, Novak scooped it up and fired a throw to home plate that beat out a Fairfax runner to keep the Warhawks ahead.
“I had made an error in our last game, and it bothered me for a while,” the second baseman said. “Tonight, I was just trying to make sure no matter what happened, I flushed it right away so I could be ready to make a play when we needed one.”
Fairfax pitcher Christian Leckert kept the Warhawks’ offense at bay, striking out six batters on a team that had put up 37 runs in its past three games. But the Rebels (12-7) were unable to drum up a rally as Madison cruised to its third straight conference title.
Chantilly scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth to rally past No. 3 Oakton, 2-1, and repeat as Conference 5 champion Friday. After Kordell Hutzell tied the score with an RBI double to left field, Jared DiCesare knocked in the decisive run for the Chargers on a single down the third base line. . . .
Lake Braddock broke open a tie game in the third inning, scoring four runs to surge past South County en route to a 12-4 victory in the Conference 7 final. . . .
Marshall repeated as Conference 13 champion, downing Edison, 4-1, for its 10th straight win.