Poolesville Coach Steve Orsini is not a weatherman. He didn’t predict the rain and snow that led to frequent postponements early in the season, nor the near-monsoon that soaked the area Tuesday. The weather simply made his preseason decision-making that much more valuable.
Orsini made a strategic decision before this season to give his team as much game experience as possible before its first county game. The second-year coach scheduled 10 scrimmages of which the Falcons played seven, as well as two games at Riverdale Baptist’s tournament. On March 15, they played three scrimmages consecutively, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“I just wanted to play,” Orsini said. “It’s better than a practice to put kids in that real-game, competitive situation.”
No. 2 Poolesville (10-0) entered spring break this week as Montgomery County’s only unbeaten team. The Falcons have scored an average of 11.4 runs per game and never allowed more than three, exhibiting textbook defense, timely hitting and one of the area’s deepest pitching rotations, led by George Washington commit Robbie Metz.
But it all started with the scrimmages. While other teams were still irrigating their fields or sneaking in a handful of outdoor practices, Poolesville was already in mid-season mode.
“I wanted to scrimmage seven or eight times, just so we could take a look at our kids and play under fire, because I think that’s the way you have to play,” Orsini said.
“You scrimmage, you try to look at what you did wrong, what you need to work on, and you practice. You can try to work on your mistakes early, before the season starts.”
A seven-game scrimmage schedule also poses significant risks. More innings on the field could potentially lead to more injuries, more wear and tear on pitchers’ arms and fatigue later in the season.
For senior pitcher and outfielder Chris Convers, however, scrimmages merely add another layer of preparation.
“You feel the difference,” said Convers, who leads the team with 16 RBI. “You have more of a game atmosphere. Hitting takes a different approach. In practice, you’re not hitting like you would in an actual game, trying to get runners across, hitting the ball the other way, that kind of stuff.”
The Falcons only played two scrimmages last year, leaving Orsini with the sense that something was missing. They won 10 of their first 11 games before dropping five of their final eight, including a first-round game against Williamsport in the Maryland 2A state playoffs.
With a bulked up preseason schedule, Poolesville is off to another fast start with hopes that the second half of its season will end differently.
“It’s made a big difference,” Orsini said. “Every scrimmage is another game that helps us down the road, I think.”
With seniors Nick Wells and Joe Williams returning for a Battlefield team that lost just two games last season, expectations were high for the Bobcats in 2014. And through seven games, their experienced pitching staff has performed at a level above the rest of the competition.
Wells, a College of Charleson commit, pitched no-hitters in his first two outings against Woodbridge and Potomac (Va.). Monday, with his Bobcats on the road in the Mingo Bay Tournament in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the 6-foot-5, 180-pound southpaw gave up his first hit of the season but struck out 14 batters in a complete game shutout.
Wells added 20 pounds over the winter lifting weights in a cold barn with Battlefield 152-pound wrestler Justus Weaver, a Virginia Tech wrestling recruit and All-Met honorable mention selection. Wells has also increased his fastball velocity by seven miles per hour, and it now consistently touches the lower 90s.
“I knew we were going to be good, but I wasn’t expecting to give up four hits in six games,” Wells said. “And to do that without allowing any runs was pretty crazy.”
Williams, a 6-foot-1 lefty, posted 22 strikeouts in his first two starts including a no-hitter against Forest Park in which he struck out 14 batters.
The lefty one-two punch has proven formidable for the Bobcats (7-0) who are outscoring opponents 38-1 thus far.
“That’s pretty unbelievable. I’ve been coaching for 38 years and have never been a part of something like this,” Battlefield Coach Jay Burkhart said. “I knew the pitching staff would be seasoned, but to be able to have this amount of success has helped our defense. But we know how quickly that can change.”
Battlefield returns from South Carolina with a marquee matchup against Conference 4 rival Hylton (7-0) at home on April 23.
In their last meeting, the Bulldogs defeated Battlefield 2-1 in the Virginia AAA Northwest Region semifinal last spring. Since Battlefield opened in 2004, Hylton leads the series, 2-1.
“That’s the game we’ve been looking forward to all year,” Wells said. “We were supposed to play them in the opening game and it was cancelled, but it makes us want to beat them even more.”
St. John’s suffered its first area loss of the season against St. Mary’s Ryken, snapping the Cadets’ nine-game winning streak. . . . Reservoir has allowed two runs in its past four games and will face Howard County’s only other unbeaten team, Atholton, on Tuesday. . . . La Plata followed its first loss of the year, a 3-2 defeat against Thomas Stone, with a 22-5 rout of Westlake. . . . Madison has reeled off seven straight victories since a season-opening loss to Stone Bridge. . . . Arundel makes its debut in the rankings after knocking off previously unbeaten Chesapeake, 5-4, on Friday.
1. St. John’s (12-4) LW: 1
2. Poolesville (10-0) LW: 3
3. Riverdale Baptist (13-2) LW: 6
4. La Plata (10-1) LW: 2
5. Reservoir (10-0) LW: 7
6. Stone Bridge (9-1) LW: 8
7. Madison (7-1) LW: 10
8. Paul VI (11-4) LW: 4
9. DeMatha (9-4) LW: 5
10. Arundel (10-0) LW: NR
Dropped out: Gaithersburg (8-1) LW: 9