There are 30 schools in the Virginia AAA Northern Region, but for the fourth consecutive year, there will be two Patriot District teams playing in the region baseball final.
Lake Braddock and West Springfield won region semifinals Wednesday at Madison to advance to the championship and secure state tournament berths, the fifth in seven years for Lake Braddock and the third in four seasons for the Spartans.
The teams will meet for the fourth time this season at 7 p.m. Friday in the region final at Madison.
“We love playing them,” said Lake Braddock senior left fielder Dylan O’Connor, who had three hits in his team’s 8-0 semifinal win over Westfield. “Great team. Huge rivalry for us. Every year we’re always competing with them.”
Lake Braddock swept West Springfield in three games this season, including in the Patriot final, and have won the past six in the series. But Lake Braddock lost to the Spartans in the 2009 region championship when West Springfield was amid a five-game winning streak in the series.
“It seems like every game is competitive with Braddock, no matter what the score is,” West Springfield senior catcher Donny Haeuptle said. With the schools 2.3 miles apart “and it being for a regional championship, it just makes it that much more special.”
West Springfield (17-9) scratched out only five hits off two Langley pitchers but took advantage of three Saxon errors, scoring in each of those innings. Senior Connor Taggsingled home two runs in the first and junior Taylor Boyd singled in two in the second on a bloop hit down the right field line.
Senior Gray Decker had two hits for Langley (15-11), which was seeking its first region final appearance since 1985. The Saxons left eight runners on base.
In the first semifinal, Lake Braddock junior left-hander Thomas Rogers fashioned a three-hitter, at one early point recording seven consecutive outs via strikeout. He finished with nine strikeouts and one walk and also doubled in two runs in the fifth.
Rogers retired Westfield’s last 10 batters in order to cap what Bruins Coach Jody Rutherford considered to be the best outing in the University of Georgia recruit’s three years at Lake Braddock. His defense committed no errors.
Lake Braddock (23-2) battered two Westfield pitchers for 11 hits, including three for O’Connor, who had the decisive squeeze bunt in the 6-5, nine-inning win over McLean in the quarterfinals. Sophomore Jack Owens and senior Matt Spruill had two hits each, and junior Alex Lewis doubled in two runs in the first inning.
Westfield (17-7) was vying to reach its first region final since 2004.