It’s a question that has been murmured many times this spring, particularly in Prince William County: “What’s up with Hylton?”
After making a run to the Virginia AAA semifinals last season and returning almost every player, including Virginia-bound pitcher Alec Bettinger and All-Met infielder Andre Scrubb, the Bulldogs were considered one of the top teams in the Washington area five weeks ago.
They still might be. But it was that inherent pressure that led to blown leads and missed opportunities through the first several games of the season. Now Hylton (8-6, 5-1 in the Cardinal District) has won six straight.
“Honestly, I think the kids were feeling the weight of the world early in the year,” Coach Craig Flesher said. “They spent all offseason with everybody telling them they’ve got everybody coming back, blah, blah, blah. They felt they had to go out there and match last year.
“We finally had a conversation where I told the kids to stop worrying about the record, just go out and play inning by inning. Slowly, we began to play better. In Florida [for spring break] we were able to get away from the whispers in the hallway. We went 2-2, but we played good teams and were able to work on our approach.”
The Bulldogs, out-hitting opponents .322 to .187 this season, have not lost since, and Flesher thought his team’s 10-0 six-inning win over Potomac (Va.) on Tuesday, a nine-strikeout one-hitter for Scrubb, might have been their most complete game yet.
Hylton boasts several college players, including Bettinger, Scrubb (High Point), Joe King (Youngstown State), twins Jeovan Sneed and Justin Sneed (Eastern Mennonite) and junior shortstop Austin Magestro (UNC Wilmington).
Others are likely to be snapped up soon. Junior outfielder Trey Bridis is hitting over .400. Junior catcher Will Frazier leads the team in homers (three) and RBI (15) and is batting .380. Junior outfielder Brady Zinda is hitting .440 and has double-digit steals. He visited Radford recently. Youngstown State is interested in Bridis. Frazier is considering junior college.
At 9-1, North Point is on track to improve its win total for the fourth straight season. But there is one trend from that same span that Eagles Coach Bill Chichester would like to leave behind: a loss in the Maryland 4A East region semifinals.
“Each year, we’ve got a little better, a little better, but we haven’t won anything yet,” Chichester said. “We’re usually pretty successful and usually pretty close, so hopefully this year can bring some more playoff wins.”
The pieces appear to be in place this spring for a postseason run. Led by the pitching of junior Kevin Hodgson as well as a consistent offense, the Eagles have scored at least five runs in every game this season.
Along with serving as North Point’s ace, displaying a solid fastball and change-up to keep opposing hitters at bay, Hodgson has stepped up at the plate in his first season as a full-time batter. In an April 30 win against Southern Maryland Athletic Conference rival Chopticon, the lefty totaled a career-high four RBI.
Monday’s loss to Northern snapped the Eagles’ nine-game win streak and while Chichester sees it as a reminder for his team to shore up its defense, he’s confident that the players’ chemistry will help them bounce back.
“We have a good nucleus of guys and it feels like a family,” Chichester said. “Our pitching is our strong suit and our hitting has been pretty good, but of course they say defense wins championships, so we’ll look to toughen up that part of our game and keep working hard.”
The six-school Virginia AAA Cedar Run District has three teams that are a combined 31-4.
Freedom senior pitcher Zach Newell did not allow an earned run in his first 20 innings this season. He is 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 25 innings. He also is batting .514 with 11 steals.
Riverdale plays at Maret (13-2) next Tuesday. . . . Madison has handed Battlefield and Oakton its lone losses. . . . Lake Braddock has won seven straight. . . . St. John’s beat DeMatha on Tuesday night to earn a split in the regular season series and can do likewise with a win at Paul VI on Wednesday. . . . Since enduring consecutive defeats, including a loss to Broadneck, South River has won three straight behind senior OF Conner Cox, who has six RBI and a home run in that span.
1. Riverdale Baptist (17-1) LW: 1
2. Madison (12-1) LW: 2
3. Lake Braddock (10-2) LW: 3
4. St. John’s (12-4) LW: 5
5. DeMatha (13-4) LW: 4
6. South River (9-2) LW: 6
7. Paul VI (14-5) LW: 7
8. Flint Hill (12-2) LW: 8
9. Oakton (10-1) LW: 9
10. Georgetown Prep (14-6) LW: 10