He knew his cousin, junior Matt Favero, would secure Madison’s first state championship in more than a decade. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh against Chantilly in the Virginia 6A state title game in Fairfax, Favero stepped to the plate.
The junior had been sitting on the bench since the fourth inning, but with no outs and a flyball to the outfield standing between the Warhawks and a walk-off win, he delivered.
Favero drilled a one-hopper to the center field wall, driving in the winning run from third and jump-starting Madison’s celebration after a 6-5 victory at Robinson.
“I knew he was going to do it,” Nielsen said. “He’s been swinging the bat really well.”
For Nielsen and Favero, the game was the culmination of their baseball careers. They have played together since their days with the Vienna Reds T-ball team when they were each 4 years old.
“I just wanted to get it to the outfield, find a fastball or something,” Favero said. “Just drive it and score that guy from third.”
Favero was relieved after 4
“I like to be in that spot. I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie,” Nielsen said. “I wanted to punch out that batter with two outs, but our shortstop [Nick Conforti] came up big with a play.”
Chantilly (21-7) fell in the state final for the second straight year.
“Our kids, you have to give a lot of credit to them,” Chargers Coach Kevin Ford said. “We were here last year and basically lost our starting lineup. They battled through a lot over the year. It’s tough.”
Down 5-3 in the bottom of the fifth, the Warhawks scored a run in each of the final three innings to complete the comeback and earn their first title since 2002.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” Favero said. “We have the lineup to keep producing runs. Earlier in the season we would have been the team that folded. We’ve been through a lot and got the job done. We’ve grown as a team.”In the bottom of the sixth, Nielsen hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score sophomore designated hitter Joey Goldsmith to tie the game.
To load the bases in the bottom of the seventh, junior first baseman Jimmy Goldsmith lined a single to left field. Junior third baseman Carlo Alfano and junior outfielder Bryan Harthun then put down consecutive bunts for singles to advance each runner a base.
The Chargers received an inspired performance from junior third baseman/pitcher Jared DiCesare. DiCesare relieved starting pitcher Forrest Wagner in the second inning and went the rest of the way after the Warhawks were able to put the game’s first three runs on the board in the bottom of the second.
DiCesare suffered a scare in the sixth inning when catcher Grant Bain tried to throw out a runner stealing second. The throw was low and pegged DiCesare in the back of the head. After going through the concussion protocol, DiCesare did 10 reps of jumping jacks, pushups and situps and received an ovation. He remained in the game.
Before the game, Gjormand told his players what it would mean for them if they were to capture the school’s first state title in 13 years.
“I told them they would be a legend for life if they won a state championship in this town,” Gjormand said.