Oakton’s Eric Lingebach rounded third and stomped on home plate, his messy brown mullet spilling out from his helmet and a packed house in Vienna cheering him on Friday night. The junior’s moon shot cleared the fence in right field, a two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth inning that scored Cole Wagner in front of him and gave the Cougars a thrilling 3-2 win in a game that had a little bit of everything.
For Oakton (19-7), Lingebach’s blast added one more thing: the Virginia 6A North region title, which comes with a home date in the 6A state semifinals June 9 against Western Branch of Chesapeake.
To get there, Oakton survived by walking off two of its rivals — Madison earlier this week in the semifinals, 3-2, then Patriot. Neither came easy.
“These last two games have just been crazy,” said Lingebach, who drove in all three of Oakton’s runs. “Probably the most exciting games of my life.”
Patriot starter Patrick Fyvie kept the Cougars scoreless into the sixth. Junior Garrett Thomas threw one pitch in relief and started a triple play: a bunt caught by first baseman Tommy Logan, who then threw to shortstop Hunter Meade for the out at second. Meade then threw to first to catch the runner there.
The Pioneers were clinging to a 1-0 lead with two outs in the seventh when Lingebach launched a double into the gap in right-center gap to tie it at 1.
It stayed that way into the top of the ninth, when Patriot’s Chase Degrood blasted a solo home run to right.
“Next pitch,” Cougars Coach Justin Janis shouted from the dugout and walked to the mound to talk to his infield.
“We knew if we could keep it within one run, we’d have a chance,” Janis said.
Senior right-hander Toma Shigaki-Than, who picked up the win, worked out of the inning after consecutive base hits.
Wagner cued a one-out grounder up the middle to set the stage for Lingebach in the bottom of the ninth.
“I was up there with confidence,” he said. “I was looking for a good pitch to hit.”
He got it, and the Cougars’ region title came with it.
“He’s a stud,” Shigaki-Than said. “We had a lot of downs, but we came back with more ups.”
Patriot (21-3) will face Cox of Virginia Beach on Friday in the state semifinal.