Madison’s Matt Favero stood at home plate in the bottom of the fourth inning and could’ve been thinking about the stakes, with his team pursuing its first state title in baseball in more than a decade. He could’ve been thinking about the start of his at-bat, when Madison pinch runner Wiley Counts got caught stealing third base after misreading a signal for the second out of the frame. He even could’ve been thinking about the cold that sidelined him in practice earlier this week.
Instead, Favero thought about the advice Coach Mark “Pudge” Gjormand doled out all season — “Look for a fastball” — and came up clutch again.
“I just got my hands out on that one, squared it up pretty good, and I gave us a lead,” Favero said matter of factly after igniting Madison’s 7-2 win over First Colonial in the Virginia 6A state semifinals Friday at Robinson. “We’re not worried about anything. We’re just having fun.”
The Warhawks (23-5) will face Chantilly, which defeated Western Branch on Friday in the other state semifinal, in the 6A state championship game Saturday.
Favero, who pitched a shutout and hit a three-run home run in last week’s 6A north region championship game win over the Chargers, broke open a tie game in the fourth inning Friday with an RBI double that jump-started a two-out, three-run rally. He added an RBI sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning, when shortstop Pete Nielsen also laced a two-run RBI single as part of another three-run frame.
Five of Madison’s six runs during the two-inning surge came with two outs, and Warhawks left-handed pitcher Brian Eckert scattered six hits over 61/3 innings in the sweltering afternoon heat.
“We’re playing our best baseball at the right time,” Gjormand said. “Once it gets rolling, it’s hard to stop.”
A week after its bats went quiet on a big stage, Chantilly wasted little time coming alive at the plate in Tuesday’s 6A state semifinal nightcap at Robinson. The Chargers quickly pounced on Western Branch and cruised to an 8-3 victory to set up a rematch with Madison.
Chantilly (21-6) batted around the order and scored four runs in the top of the first inning. Five of the first six Chargers batters ended up with hits, and nine players reached base in the first two innings.
Western Branch, which beat Chantilly in last year’s state final, closed the gap to 6-2 in the third on a towering two-run home run by third baseman Matthew Roth. But Chargers pitcher Matt Hogle worked out of a bases-loaded jam to stem the tide and his teammates added two insurance runs in the top half of the fourth.
“We haven’t hit like that in a long time,” Padeway said. “Throughout the playoffs, it’s been shaky with the bats, and tonight felt really good. Everybody was swinging well.”