Aldie, Va. — On the back of a masterful performance by junior starter Luke Proehl, the Freedom High School Eagles took down the Herndon High School Hornets, 2-1, to win the VHSL Class 6 State championship on June 11 in Aldie.
“When you’re dealing like that, it’s kinda like you settle into a zone and you kinda forget it’s the state championship game. You’re just out there playing baseball,” Proehl said. “It’s just you and the catcher, throwing the ball, doing your pitches, so it felt great, but just tried not to think too much.”
Proehl had his hands full with a Herndon team that was riding a 5-game win streak, including a win over state title contender Colgan the afternoon prior. But the Virginia Tech-commit rose to the challenge, allowing just two hits and two walks, while striking out twelve, over his complete game shutout.
“It was amazing. He texted me last night and he was like ‘I want the ball,’ and you know that’s all you can ask for,” Freedom pitching coach Andy Devitt said. “We knew that he would give us absolutely everything he had because he always does. He’s just that type of kid.”
While Proehl kept the Hornets’ bats at bay, Herndon senior starter Jackson Coen wasn’t going to let the state championship slip away that easily. Coen scattered six hits and four walks, striking out ten, over 6.1 innings of work.
In the top of the fourth, sophomore center fielder Griffin Burkholder broke open the stalemate when he punched a single into shallow center field, scoring junior designated hitter Mason Butash, putting the Eagles up 1-0.
“Just going up there, you see the runner on third, you’re trying to do a job, do anything to score that run,” Burkholder said. “Knowing that I can do something big like that to help the team in such a big game—it’s the best feeling you can have.”
Freedom added to its lead three innings later when sophomore second baseman Jeramiah Park came home on a wild pitch to extend the Eagles’ lead to 2-0.
Trailing by 2-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Hornets put together a small rally, scoring one run and getting the tying run to second base with two outs in the inning. However, their late comeback attempt fell short when junior left fielder Kyle Ausgotharp hauled in the final out, securing his team a spot in the history books.
“This means so much to me. Just growing up with all these players, becoming close with them for like our whole lives, and just being able to finally win a state championship with all of them when Freedom’s never won one is just – it means so much to me,” Freedom senior right fielder Nathan Chen said.
Along with Chen, the Eagles will graduate Dylan Greentree, Cal Henderson, Peter Hoenig, Ryan Morrison, Bradley Robinette, Tyler Smith, and Callahan Wyman, who played a vital role in Freedom winning its first state title in baseball. But even as those eight seniors head off on their new adventures, the Eagles are already hungry for more hardware.
“The senior class are the ones who really molded and matured – you wanna talk about mentoring – holy cow. These guys—the senior class—were the pace car for all those younger guys, and it paid dividends,” Freedom head coach Mark Wrighte said. “We’re all celebrating, but I mean these guys are hungry, we’re gonna be back. We are gonna be back.”