After the raucous celebration had died down and the D.C. State Athletic Association championship trophy had been handed out, Wilson baseball Coach Jimmy Silk sat his entire team down in the dugout at Nationals Youth Academy field.
Parents clamored for pictures and friends wanted to celebrate, but Silk asked his team to pause for a second and think about what just happened. Senior Sam Himmelfarb had hit a walk-off single to win the game against St. Albans, 5-4, and the Tigers were crowned state champions for the first time. Wilson, a public school, was finally at the top of the high school baseball world in Washington.
“This win is for all those Wilson guys that got heartbreakingly close and didn’t get there,” he said. “We did.”
Himmelfarb’s walk-off hit came with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, a miracle delivered to the Tigers when all momentum seemed to be with St. Albans and a light rain had just started to fall.
The Bulldogs were leading 4-3 and seemed to be wiggling out of one last jam. Wilson (23-7) had stranded the winning run in scoring position the previous two innings, and the St. Albans rally in the top of the ninth felt like a knockout blow.
Himmelfarb had already played the hero in the fifth, getting a two-run single off Clark Klitenic, the Bulldogs’ dominant starter. But when he came up in the ninth and whiffed at the first two pitches, it seemed the Tigers would strand two final runners on base and miss out on another title chance.
But with two strikes, Himmelfarb sent a line drive deep to left that kept climbing. It reached the outfielder and sailed over his head, sending the Wilson bench into a frenzy.
“In the end I just stayed back and tried to hit it [to the opposite field],” Himmelfarb said. “Great way to end my senior season.”
The Bulldogs were led by an eight-inning, 10-strikeout performance by Klitenic in their attempt at a third DCSAA title in four years.
It was the ultimate prove-it win for the Tigers, who load every season’s schedule with tough nonconference games to counteract a weak conference schedule. Baseball is not a priority for many schools in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association, and many schools struggle to field teams and get the right equipment.
The Tigers have won the DCIAA for the last 26 years and have strove as a program to add a state title, and the respect that it brings, to their trophy case.
“It’s a struggle we welcome every year,” Silk said. “What our kids learn every year is a lot of lessons.”
As part of his postgame dugout talk, Silk listed off names of former players and coaches who had come up short. Each contributed to the Tigers in their own way but couldn’t reach the ultimate goal. This win was for them and for so much more.
“It’s more than just the kids that came previous here,” Silk said. “This is a win for D.C. public baseball, which needs a lot of help and a lot of support.”