Westfield senior right-hander Bryan Drager had a baseball in his hand and another on his left calf. Or at least it looked that way. After he absorbed a line drive in the sixth inning Tuesday night at Robinson, the knot rapidly swelled.
“How’s your leg?” Westfield Coach Chuck Welch inquired on his mound visit after the injury.
“Fine,” Drager replied. “Where’s the ball?”
Gimpy, numb and iced after the game, Drager pushed on to complete his three-hitter, a 1-0 victory that kept his No. 6 Bulldogs in a tie for first in the Virginia AAA Concorde District with No. 8 Centreville in the most balanced league in Northern Virginia. Centreville plays at Westfield on Friday night.
How balanced? Well, five Concorde teams have winning overall records, and the sixth, .500 team Oakton, is the defending league champion. Four teams were tied for first place headed into Tuesday night. Five of the six teams have cracked the Top 10 this season only to, in some cases, cannibalize each other out of the rankings. Twelve of 21 district games have been decided by one run. Four more have been decided by two.
Balanced as the league may be, two of the six Concorde teams will not qualify for the Northern Region tournament. Winning the regular season title and securing an automatic regional berth might be even more important than usual.
So given all that, Drager wanted to stay in the game, his team’s fifth consecutive win, even though outings at Robinson have not been good for his health. He got nailed with a batted ball there last year, too.
“My adrenaline was rushing,” said Drager, who struck out six and walked two. “I told coach I had gotten this far and allowed three hits, I want this win. I want to go all seven.”
Westfield scored in the fourth when senior Kyle Corwin singled, took second on a passed ball, went to third on a groundout by senior Wade Arduini and scored on a sacrifice fly by junior Corey Banks, who had lined out to center with two runners on in the first.
The one run stood in the brisk 82-minute game. The winning team has scored five runs or fewer in 16 of 21 Concorde games. The past four wins for Westfield (12-4, 5-2) have been by a combined 12-6 score.
“If we get one run across the board, for our staff, it feels like five runs,” said Corwin, who also pitches. “These low-run games definitely keep us all on the edge of the bench, and it’s good because it keeps everybody in the game regardless if they’re playing or not. We know that at any point in the game, something big could happen.”
A 1-0 lead “kind of puts you over the hump and frees you up to know that you can probably play a little looser,” said Welch, whose team lost its first two Concorde games. “This team for us typically will find a way. Sometimes it’s not pretty.”
Robinson (9-8, 4-3) beat Westfield in the teams’ first meeting this season, the Rams’ first win in the series since Westfield’s seniors got to high school. Robinson had its chance to pull off the sweep but stranded a runner at third with one out in the first, had another picked off second for the second out in the third and bounced into a double play after getting the leadoff runner on in the fifth.
Rams senior right-hander Denis Mikush, every bit as effective as summer teammate Drager, threw a four-hitter, struck out eight and walked none. Sophomore Danny Herrera had two of Robinson’s three hits. The Rams host Oakton on Friday.
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