This West Springfield baseball team has no Bobby Wahl, Mike Kent, Charlie Morgan, Bryn Renner or any other of the star players associated with the teams that won the 2009 and 2010 Virginia AAA Northern Region titles and the state crown two years ago.
But they do have guys like senior right-hander Tyler Tobin, who also was around for that success, and it was Tobin on Saturday night who pitched the relatively star-less Spartans to a 3-2 nine-inning win over Lake Braddock in the region championship at Madison.
“We had some phenomenal players, and I think a lot of times everybody just gave all the credit to them and didn’t give the credit to the other guys,” said first-year West Springfield Coach Jason Olms, who had been an assistant in the program before taking over as head coach. “Those guys deserved a lot of credit, but these kids are winners.”
With nary a first- or second-team all-region player in the lineup, the Spartans were able to knock off the region favorite Bruins, who had beaten them three times this season, including in the Patriot District final, by a combined 27-3 score.
Tobin discovered that anonymity can be an asset. He threw eight-plus innings of one-run ball and believed his effectiveness hinged in part on the fact that he had not faced Lake Braddock this season.
“I think it worked out good that they didn’t see me before,” said Tobin, who wanted to pitch the Bruins inside. “If they’d seen me it helps the hitters out. But since they hadn’t, I had an advantage.”
Lake Braddock sophomore Jack Owens led off the bottom of the first with a homer, and the Bruins nursed that lead into the seventh, when West Springfield tied the game on a two-out hit by junior Taylor Boyd.
The Spartans scored twice in the ninth, again with two outs, when Boyd singled, senior Nick Stevens reached on a third strike in the dirt and senior Donny Haeuptle lined a catchable shot to center field that was dropped, allowing two runs to score, off freshman Matt Supko, who had relieved senior Michael Church in the seventh.
The Bruins thought they had gotten out of the inning when earlier in the at-bat Haeuptle grounded into what would have been a force play for the third out, but the umpires ruled that the batted ball went off his foot.
In the bottom of the ninth, Lake Braddock senior Matt Spruill reached on an infield hit, and one out later, junior Thomas Rogers walked. Tobin then exited after a 123-pitch outing. Senior Connor Tagg hit both senior Chuck Feola and Owens to force in a run but got the next two batters to pop out.
West Springfield has now won nine region titles, the most of any school. Lake Braddock is next closest with six.
The Spartans will host Central Region runner-up James River in a state quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Lake Braddock will play at Central champion Cosby.
“I just can’t tell you enough about the resolve that these guys have,” said Olms, who played for West Springfield teams that lost in the region final in 1993 and ’94. “They just enjoy the moment. Every elimination game they played their best baseball, and you can’t ask more than that from a team.”