GLEN ALLEN, Va. — The West Springfield baseball team led by six runs in the fifth inning of the Virginia Class 6 state final Saturday. As starting pitcher Jared Lyons approached the plate with the bases loaded, he wanted to put the game away.
A few innings earlier, with the Spartans trailing Western Branch by one, Coach Jason Olms had preached to his team the importance of swinging to make contact. But Lyons was looking for a blast.
“At first, I’m going to be honest, I was trying to do some damage,” Lyons said. Then he fell behind in the count.
“When I got to two strikes, I was just like: ‘Forget anything else. I’ve got to give myself up, get a couple runs in and secure the win,’ ” the George Mason signee said.
Instead, he launched a grand slam over the center field fence. The shot put West Springfield up by double digits, and the Spartans went on to beat the defending champion Bruins, 12-2, at Deep Run High to claim their first state title since 2010.
Western Branch got on the scoreboard first. Senior Timmy Cassidy singled to center and then scored on a two-out single by sophomore Jalen Perez in the top of the second inning.
West Springfield (20-5) had trailed in its regional quarterfinal (a 10-5 win against Robinson), regional final (a 7-1 win against Lake Braddock) and state semifinal (a 6-2 win against Lake Braddock), so Olms knew his team could overcome another deficit. But to do that, the Spartans would have to score, and their bats looked slow in the muggy weather.
“Late in the year, as the weather gets hot and we get tired, the bats slow down a little bit, the barrels dip a little bit, and you get beneath the balls and pop up or strike out more,” Olms said.
Heading into the bottom of the second, Olms gathered his players. He told them not to panic and to focus on their swings. The Spartans ended up scoring four runs in the inning to jump ahead 4-1.
The Spartans continued to build on that lead, and then in the fifth inning, Lyons delivered a picture-perfect swing to all but seal the win.
“That was a short, compact swing, straight to the ball,” Olms said. “He just got the barrel on the ball, and the ball went — and it went far.”
Senior Nick Johnson followed immediately after Lyons’s grand slam with his own home run, a solo shot to left field to put West Springfield up 12-1.
After the six-run fifth inning, Lyons watched the rest of the game from the dugout. The right-hander allowed one run and four hits in five innings, and with the game well in hand, the coaching staff let the senior kick back and enjoy the last two innings.
Lyons, Johnson and the rest of the seniors on the West Springfield roster skipped their prom Friday so they could rest up for the state final, and Johnson said he would make the trade again.
“The memories we’re making will be with us for the rest of our lives,” he said as he stood in the middle of his team’s postgame celebration. “We’re not going to forget this.”