Briar Woods had plenty to gain and a season to lose entering Wednesday’s Virginia 5A North region semifinal against Potomac.
The game on its home field in Ashburn represented a chance to avenge its consecutive season-ending losses at the hands of the Panthers and an opportunity to establish the deepest tournament run in school history.
But if junior pitcher Wilson Ayers and the Falcons (16-7) were feeling the pressure, they certainly didn’t show it. Ayers pitched a complete game while giving up five hits and one run in his team’s 8-1 victory.
“Wilson’s a special person,” Coach Jason Miller said. “He’s a cool customer. He doesn’t let stuff faze him.
“We’ve given him the ball pretty much in every major situation this year, and he’s taken the team where it needs to go.”
Sporting the Falcons’ camouflage uniform, the Navy commit didn’t show the slightest bit of emotion until he pumped both of his fists after striking out his 10th batter for the final out of the game.
“Potomac’s beaten us for the last two years,” Ayers said. “We didn’t want them coming to our field and doing it for a third time.”
Helping Ayers stay even keel was a defense making tough plays around him.
“It’s not just a one-man show,” said Ayers, who plated two runs with a hard-hit single in the first inning and smacked a double to left-center in the third. “It’s not, ‘Oh, hey, I have to do all this.’ George [Rosales] is doing it. Alex [Bjornsen] is doing it, too. It’s a whole team job.”
The lefty fed the Panthers a steady diet of fastballs until the second time through the order, when he began peppering in his slider to keep Potomac (15-7) off balance at the plate. Behind him, the defense went to work.
Moving to his right, Bjornsen made a diving snag on a hard-hit grounder to prevent a likely run from scoring in the second. Rosales, catching Ayers, picked off a runner at first who would have scored in the sixth.
With the win, the Falcons earned an automatic bid to the state tournament while advancing to the region final, in which they will face Halifax County, which edged North Stafford, 2-1, in a 12-inning marathon.
“We’ve always had a goal [to make the state tournament],” said a smiling Rosales, who blasted a line-drive double to the left field fence in the second inning, scoring the moving runner from first and putting the Falcons up 5-0. “To make history as the first team in school history to make it this far, it feels pretty good.”
Around the area, No. 4 Patriot defeated West Springfield, 4-3, in a 6A North region semifinal, while Oakton beat No. 2 Madison, 3-2, in the other 6A semifinal. Freedom-South Riding fell to Liberty Christian, 1-0, in a 4A West region semifinal.