Chantilly’s Chris Pitura barreled down the third base line Friday, bursting with the type of boldness not often seen from a team that had experienced as much playoff disappointment as the Chargers had in the previous two years.
As the junior slid into home plate to beat the Battlefield catcher’s tag, Pitura popped back onto his feet and glided back to the dugout, his arms outstretched like an airplane. Chantilly was indeed riding high by then, plating five runs in the first inning en route to an 8-3 victory against Battlefield in the Virginia 6A North region baseball championship in Haymarket.
The outcome reversed last year’s finish for the Chargers (23-2) when they fell in both the region and state final. This time, they left little room for error thanks to an explosive opening inning.
Jared DiCesare sparked the surge with an RBI double to left field that scored Jared Enders. A Matt Padeway single and a Brady Ryan triple kept the offensive onslaught going before Ryan Krueger’s RBI single brought home Pitura to put Chantilly up 5-0.
“We hit the ball hard, hit line drives and really attacked the fastball early on,” Chargers Coach Kevin Ford said.
That was especially true for DiCesare. The senior nearly hit for the cycle, belting a double, single and triple in his first three at-bats to finish 3 for 4 with three RBI and two runs scored.
The strong start did wonders for Chantilly starting pitcher Forrest Wagner. To take the mound with a five-run lead helped the senior lefty quickly loosen up as he worked the strike zone with his curveball and cutter. After retiring Battlefield’s first six batters as Chantilly built an 8-0 lead through three innings, Wagner finished just as strong, striking out four in the Bobcats’ final seven at-bats.
“I normally don’t pitch that well because it’s usually just one pitch that’s working for me,” said Wagner, who had eight strikeouts and two walks in his complete-game effort. “But tonight, everything was working well. And when we had that big first inning, that really boosted my confidence.”
The cushion also allowed Wagner to exhale after Battlefield’s Brady Harju belted a two-run home run in the fourth inning to put the Bobcats (22-4) on the scoreboard. At that point, the damage was already done as the Chargers ultimately hoisted their second region championship trophy in three years.
“To have championship losses in both the region and state last year doesn’t sit well with us,” DiCesare said. “We’re hungry and we don’t want to settle for anything.”
The Chargers advance to next Friday’s 6A state semifinal at Robinson against Cosby, which lost 7-3 to Hylton in the 6A South region final. Hylton also found success at the plate, cranking out 11 hits led by Christian Colangelo (3 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored). Trey Shepard got the win on the mound for the Bulldogs as he struck out six and allowed just one earned run in seven innings.
Battlefield will face Hylton in the other 6A state semifinal.
● MOUNTAIN VIEW 5, POTOMAC 4: Evan Antonellis put Potomac up 3-1 in the third inning with a three-run home run, but Mountain View rallied and took the lead for good on two bases-loaded walks in the sixth inning. Potomac will face Nansemond River, the 5A South region champion, in next Friday’s 5A state semifinal.