Eric Lingebach walked to the batter’s box with two men on and no outs in the fifth inning of a Virginia 6A semifinal against Western Branch. The situation was one Oakton Coach Justin Janis dreamed about.
The Cougars had fought their way to the state tournament with at-bats such as this: rally-starters at the heart of the order that put Oakton back in the lead.
The 3-0 loss also meant there will be no state championship appearance.
Western Branch pitcher Jay Patto hit a solo home run in the seventh inning, and Oakton (19-8) went down in order in the bottom half of the frame.
Lingebach had laced a game-tying double in the seventh inning of the 6A North region final against Patriot last week to force extra innings after the Pioneers had taken the lead in the top half of the inning. In the ninth, Lingebach launched a two-run, walk-off home run.
That was 2017 Oakton baseball. “One hell of a run,” Janis called it.
Afterward on Friday, the Cougars’ seniors stood in left field taking stock of their high school careers. The run was over.
James Price wasn’t his best on the mound but was seemingly on his way to pitching Patriot out of a fourth-inning jam. The Pioneers trailed by a run and were moments away from stranding another Cox runner on second base.
Then a harmless popup Price forced off the bat of Cox’s No. 7 hitter fell between defenders for a foul ball. A line drive into right field on the next pitch scooted past a diving defender. Cox pushed across two more runs. Patriot’s season, after a 4-1 loss in a Virginia 6A state semifinal, was over.
“That was the deciding factor of the game,” Pioneers Coach Josh Steinberg said. “As soon as they hung a couple more runs on us, that deflated everybody.”
Patriot (21-4) reached this game following a rain-suspended comeback win at West Springfield and a back-and-forth loss to Oakton in the 6A North region final. This team had been on stages like this and come back against good teams, Steinberg said. Not on Friday.
“Honestly, we didn’t compete,” he said. The Pioneers mustered a single hit: a groundball through the right side in the fifth inning. They struck out 11 times against Cox ace Austin Cabone.
Patriot’s lone run was the result of a pair of errors in the third inning. Price threw four innings, struck out one and gave up eight hits.
Cox will face Western Branch on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Robinson Secondary School in a rematch of the 6A South championship game.