Westfield Coach Rob Hahne trusted the process. The Bulldogs were young last season, and Hahne figured they weren’t ready to compete for baseball titles. He placed his inexperienced players in crucial situations during an 8-12 season to prepare them for the 2019 campaign, in which his squad’s goals would be loftier.
Many of those objectives have come to fruition. No. 3 Westfield defeated Centreville, 2-0, on Friday night to win the Virginia Region 6D title. The Bulldogs (22-3) added the crown to its Concorde District title, and they enter the Virginia Class 6 quarterfinals on a 10-game winning streak.
“It’s pretty special,” said Hahne, whose team faces West Springfield on Tuesday. “This group had a rough year last year.”
The walls in Westfield’s press box are covered with framed photos of past players and teams. The first picture you see when entering may be the most notable: Westfield’s 2004 regional championship.
Since then, the Bulldogs fielded inconsistent teams — until this season. The catalyst for Westfield’s success this year has been its pitching staff, which threw its 16th shutout Friday.
Right-hander Joe Clancy and left-hander Nick Lottchea are Westfield’s primary starters. When they’re fatigued, right-hander Danny Leo enters for a save opportunity.
“Coming into the season. I had no expectations for this team except Joe. I knew he was going to throw the ball by everyone,” Leo said. “It’s been fun. We got to keep going.”
On Tuesday against Battlefield, Clancy, a Maryland Baltimore County commit, struck out 14 batters over 6⅔ innings to help clinch Westfield’s first state tournament berth in 15 years. On Friday, Lottchea threw five scoreless innings before Leo entered.
Westfield provided Lottchea run support. In the first inning, outfielder Derek Furr drove in a run with a fielder’s choice. In the fifth, infielder Kevin Mackmin knocked an RBI double to center.
Lottchea was one of the underclassmen the Bulldogs groomed last year. Hahne could tell in last season’s tryouts he had potential. Clancy mentored Lottchea in bullpen sessions, teaching him a different grip to throw his curveball.
“He’s an old-school baseball player, and he competes,” Hahne said. “There’s nobody better to have in those situations because we know he’s going to step up and compete.”
Over four games this season, Westfield didn’t allow a run to Centreville (18-8), which plays Lake Braddock in the Virginia Class 6 quarterfinals Tuesday.
“Give me the banners,” Lottchea screamed in the midst of Westfield’s postgame celebration Friday. “I want them all.”