This year, they battled all the way back and closed the deal with a state championship.
The Arlington Senior Babe Ruth 15-Under All-Stars used clutch hitting, hustle, stingy complete-game pitching and sound defense, to win in various manners en route to capturing the state baseball tournament championship near Richmond earlier this week. Some of its wins were comebacks and others were by close margins.
Arlington won the title from the losers’ bracket with a 7-1 record, winning its final six games in three days – two per day. The All-Stars clinched the title July 21 by defeating Greater Loudoun by 6-1 and 4-2 scores.
To start the tournament, the 15s won their opening game, then lost their second to fall into the losers’ bracket, where they won six in a row.
Arlington now advances to the Southeast Regional Tournament in Varina, also near Richmond. Play begins July 30.
Last summer, many of the same Arlington players rallied in the losers’ bracket, only to lose in the final game and finish second in the 14-under state tournament.
“Right after we lost our first game this year, we knew we had to win six games, so we started counting them down,” said Arlington’s Frank Sammartino, who was chosen as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. “We had to win five, then four, then three and so on. Pitching and defense kept us in games. That gave our offense a chance to get hot. Everybody did their job.”
Arlington manager Mike Krulfeld said: “It was crazy and a blast. Six games in three days. Some of these players have an 11-1 record in the losers’ bracket [of the state tournament] the last two years. They truly believe any kid who gets up to bat can find a way to get on base. No one player stood out because they all contributed. A lot of our rallies started at the bottom of our lineup.”
In Arlington’s final 4-2 triumph, lefty Gavin Anderson got the win, meaning he pitched complete-game bookend victories in the tourney. In the final, he fanned two, did not walk a batter, threw just 75 pitches and had four 1-2-3 innings.
“He peppered the strike zone, he worked at a good pace and was on point,” Krulfeld said of Anderson’s final game.
Blake Edwards was 3 for 3 for Arlington, including a solo homer. Andy Collins had a two-run single and Andrew Keane singled home another run.
In Arlington’s 6-1 win over Greater Loudoun, Ethan Heckler belted a three-run homer, Collins had an RBI single, Edwards (2 for 3) doubled and was squeezed home by Reid Nagurka, and Keane (2 for 3) added an RBI single.
“I got an inside fastball and I got the barrel of the bat on the ball,” Heckler said of his home run.
Keane pitched a complete game for the win. He allowed six hits, fanned four, walked three and threw 96 pitches. Arlington did not make an error. Nagurka had three assists from right field and Keane picked a runner off.
“He was firing strikes, let them hit the ball and the defense did the job,” Krulfeld said.
Added Keane: “I kept the ball down and the defense made the plays.”
The previous day, Arlington rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to nip Varina, 3-2, then downed Denbigh, 9-5, thanks to seven runs in the first inning. Noah Winslow was the winner in that 9-5 game and Heckler worked in relief.
Collins was 3 for 4 in the 9-5 win, Edwards was 2 for 3 and Sammartino was on base three times.
In the 3-2 win over Varina, Alec Glasser threw a 97-pitch complete game with five strikeouts. He allowed six hits.
In the top of the seventh with two outs and Keane (2 for 2) on base, Sammartino faced a two-strike count. He grounded to short and hustled to beat out an infield single on a bang-bang play at first. That kept Arlington’s hopes alive.
“No way I was going to make the last out of the season there,” Sammartino said.
Collins then singled home Keane, Glasser reached on an error as Sammartino scored to tie the game at 2, and Heckler singled home the winning run.
On July 19, Arlington defeated Augusta, 8-4, and Stafford, 1-0, to stay alive.
In other games, Arlington rallied to nip Nottoway, 4-3, in its opening contest, then lost to Denbigh, 4-3, in its second to drop into the losers’ bracket and begin its comeback.
In the victory over Nottoway, Andy Belilos started the comeback with a seventh-inning double, then scored on Winslow’s two-bagger. Winslow eventually scored on Anderson’s sacrifice fly to tie the game at 3.
Chris Brady then dropped a first-pitch squeeze bunt down the first-base line to score Nagurka, who had walked, with the fourth run. Heckler was 2 for 3. Collins, Austin Carroll and Sammartino added hits.
“We like to come back. It’s fun,” Heckler said. “We have trust in each other that we can get the job done.”
Added Brady: “We believe we can come back from anything. When it really matters, we never give up and we all have been so clutch.”
Anderson had nine strikeouts on the mound against Nottoway.
“I had good command,” Anderson said.
In winning the earlier District 13 tournament, Arlington rallied to win its final two games to reach the state competition.
“As soon as someone got on base, it was like ‘here we go again,’” Krulfeld said of the rallies and close wins. “We had a group of kids who performed when it mattered.”
Said Sammartino: “A lot of us have played together for five years, and this is our last year together. We wanted to go out with a state title.”
Jaime Segui pitched well in relief in one of Arlington’s state games.
The Arlington coaches were Steve Kouril and James Overbeek.