Down the ice water gushed onto Madison’s unassuming baseball coach, sending Mark “Pudge” Gjormand on a brief escape from the infield celebration following Friday’s Virginia 6A North region baseball championship in Vienna. As the chilled water dripped down his back and legs before seeping into his shoes, the 20th-year coach let out a yelp before stopping to crack a smile at the scene before him, both old and current players reveling in a triumph that was 12 years in the making.
In the past six season alone, the Warhawks have approached the doorstep to a region title — once with an unblemished record in hand — only to be turned away by errors, untimely hits and the sting of fate. Propelled by this past frustration, Madison plowed its way to a 9-0 victory at home against Chantilly, capturing its first region crown since 2003.
“We faced adversity early in the season, but we just had to find ourselves and find our rhythm as a team,” junior Pete Nielsen said. “We found it, and now we’re rolling at the right time.”
And it’s Nielsen who has been perhaps the hottest Warhawk during the current playoff run. After recording a walk-off, extra-inning hit in Wednesday’s semifinal victory, the shortstop sparked his team Friday by blasting a solo home run to left field in the third inning.
Later that inning, following a sacrifice fly by Bryan Harthun, starting pitcher Matt Favero helped his own cause with a three-run shot to right-center field to put Madison up 5-0.
The commanding lead bolstered Favero’s confidence, allowing him to better locate his fastball and curveball on his way to throwing six scoreless innings for the Warhawks (22-5).
“I felt relaxed going back to the mound after that home run,” said Favero, who struck out three in six innings of work. “It’s awesome to get this win, and we’ve worked hard to earn it.”
Chantilly (20-6) eventually broke up Favero’s no-hit bid in the sixth on singles by Grant Bain and Matt Padeway. But the Warhawks’ defense scuttled any hint of a Chargers rally before Jimmy Goldsmith laced a two-run single to the gap in right-center field that made for the final margin.
“When you think about all the kids that have knocked on the door and didn’t make it and to see a lot of those guys here in the stands and what this team was able to accomplish, it’s pretty special,” Gjormand said.
Both teams advance to next Friday’s 6A state semifinals at Robinson.
Notes: In other regional action, Mitch Blackstone and Matt Borowski blasted home runs to lift Marshall past Patrick Henry-Ashland, 3-2, in the Virginia 5A North semifinals. The Statesmen, who also clinched a state tournament berth, will host Stone Bridge in Saturday’s region final at 5 p.m. . . .
Woodgrove fell to Fauquier, 5-4, in the 4A North region semifinals, ending the Wolverines’ season. . . .
George Mason lost to Maggie Walker, 8-6, in the 2A East region semifinals, bringing the Mustangs’ 20-6 campaign to a close.