Ashburn, Va. — As he stepped into the box with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh in a tied Potomac District championship, Briar Woods High School senior right fielder Aidan Willard was just waiting for a strike.
“I knew he was kind of rattled, so I was just waiting for him to throw a strike,” Willard said. “The count was 2-1, then 3-1, so I knew he had to come at me.”
In front of a packed stadium in Ashburn, against one of the school’s oldest rivals, Willard relaxed and decided what he would sit on: a fastball, middle-out.
Broad Run junior reliever Justin Rebok reared back, delivered, and made his only real mistake of the night: a fastball, middle-out.
Willard connected, smashing a ball to left centerfield, driving in sophomore courtesy runner Drew Petitt as the Falcons defeated the Spartans in walk-off fashion, 6-5, to claim the Potomac District title.
“I picked middle-out, and he threw it there, and I swung,” Willard said. “As soon as I hit it, I was kind of in shock. I can’t really explain it.”
For Willard, the RBI single wasn’t the first of his on the night. In the bottom of the first – after Broad Run senior first baseman Ryan Gorey knocked a two-run double past Willard to open the scoring in the top of the inning – Willard drove a ball to right, plating sophomore second baseman Evan Smith to even the score at 2-2.
The Falcons took the lead a couple pitches later when junior third baseman Nick Famiglietti scored on a wild pitch, swinging momentum and the lead back towards Briar Woods.
“If a team scores on you, how are you going to respond?” Briar Woods head coach Rob Sikora said. “We always talk about ‘if you’re going to get punched, how hard are you going to punch back?’ And we did a good job of punching back tonight.”
In the top of the third, Rebok crushed a double to the left center gap, scoring Broad Run senior center fielder Luke Lindenfeldar, as the Spartans evened things back out.
Briar Woods, however, had an immediate response as Smith – who transferred from St. John’s prior to the season – hit a hard ground ball up the middle to score senior designated hitter Tyler Woody, then turned on the jets to turn what looked like a routine single into a hustle double. That RBI double was already Smith’s second of the night.
“Evan has fit in great with our program. We love having him here,” Sikora said. “He’s a spark plug.”
In the top of the fifth, Broad Run got a couple timely hits, and proved patient at the plate, as sophomore Adam Chow drew a walk to force in junior second baseman Quinn Stromberg and give the Spartans the lead, 5-4.
The Falcons responded again in the bottom half of the sixth when Famiglietti scored on a wild pitch to even the score at 5-5.
With one out in the sixth, Gorey and Rebok singled to give the Spartans a chance, but Briar Woods junior reliever Kyle Lewis worked out of the jam unscathed.
Then in the top of the seventh, Broad Run again looked to steal the momentum as sophomore catcher Matthew Mizelle led off the inning with a triple over the head of Willard.
With the go-ahead run on third base, Sikora turned to his trusty right arm, Tyler Woody, to try to keep things tied heading into the bottom half of the inning.
Woody issued a walk to start his appearance then struck out the next three Spartans to give the Falcons’ bats a chance to walk off.
“That’s Tyler Woody for you. We were going to give him the ball in that moment,” Sikora said. “Knowing anything about Tyler, he wants the pressure situation. We gave it to him, and he responded.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Woody reached on an error to leadoff the inning then proceeded to steal second base before being lifted for a courtesy runner. Rebok – who looked sharp throughout his relief appearance – then issued an intentional pass to Smith and plunked Famiglietti to set the stage for Willard, who came through in the clutch to give Briar Woods the win, 6-5.
“I couldn’t be happier for this group. They’re a special, special group,” Sikora said. “To see them grow and mature, and to set a goal and achieve it, that’s what coaching is about, that’s what life is about; it’s not about the win or the loss, it’s about these guys coming together.”
Briar Woods Batting
Broad Run Batting
Briar Woods Pitching
|Justin Rebok (L)||2+||1||1||0||2||1|
Broad Run Pitching
|Tyler Woody (W)||1||0||0||0||3||1|