Westfield right-hander Danny Leo pumped his right fist, glanced toward the outfield and let out a sigh of relief on his home field Tuesday night in Chantilly.
Leo had just closed the Bulldogs’ 5-3 win over Madison to keep his team in first place in the Concorde District, but that wasn’t his only motivation. Westfield right-hander Joe Clancy had tossed a shutout against Centreville on Monday, raising the stakes for Clancy and Leo’s friendly rivalry.
The pitchers have pushed each other in sports since they played on the same junior football team as 6-year-olds. They have continued to compete with each other as seniors while propelling Westfield (15-3, 6-1) to one of its best starts this decade.
“I like competing against Joe,” Leo said. “Obviously, he’s got like 40 more strikeouts than I do. But it’s a lot of fun.”
Leo and Clancy began playing varsity baseball as sophomores, and Westfield Coach Rob Hahne could tell then they would be high-caliber pitchers because of their work ethic. They spent extra time at bullpen sessions and while lifting weights. Still, Leo and Clancy hadn’t entered an elite program.
A year ago, Westfield finished 8-12. Many players on that team were inexperienced, but Hahne had a feeling this season’s squad could compete behind Leo and Clancy.
“Our pitching has been outstanding,” Hahne said. “Those two sort of anchor our staff and give everybody else confidence.”
Clancy has been one of the area’s most dominant pitchers this season, allowing just one run and sporting a 6-0 record. At the plate, the senior is hitting .300 with three home runs.
Leo has also been steady on the mound. While he allowed four runs over six innings in a loss to Madison earlier in April, he pitched two scoreless innings against the Warhawks (14-3, 4-2) on Tuesday. The Bulldogs, who are seeking their first district title since 2010, have held opponents scoreless 11 times.
“We’re excited how we’re doing so far,” Leo said. “We feel like we can beat anybody right now.”
Westfield’s pitching struggled early Tuesday, when Madison scored three runs over the first two innings. Last year, Westfield’s players said they would have stopped trying after falling behind by three.
The Bulldogs’ mentality is different this year. Left-hander Nick Lottchea settled in before Leo took control, and Westfield came from behind to earn the win.
Afterward, teammates and spectators gathered around Leo to congratulate him. His final greeting came from Clancy, and the pair hugged and performed their signature handshake.
“These are all the guys I could ask for,” Clancy said.