The Madison Warhawks’ strategy worked and, as a result, brought the top-seed baseball team the Liberty Conference 6 Tournament championship.
By bunting, stealing bases, playing solid defense, getting stingy pitching, and taking advantage of defensive miscues by the No. 3 seed Langley Saxons, host Madison won the May 23 title game, 3-0, in a quick 76 minutes.
For Madison (19-2), the victory was its 10th in a row. Langley fell to 13-9.
“It’s always our goal to win this first,” said Madison senior third baseman Luke Belt, who was 1 for 3 and made a number of good defensive plays on ground balls, including starting a double play.
The Warhawks did their damage in the first three innings against Langley. That’s when Madison stole four bases, bunted multiple times, and took advantage of two Langley errors and a passed ball to score their three unearned runs. Madison had five hits off Langley ace Jake McSteen (7-1), who struck out seven and walked one in a complete game.
“With Jake on the mound, we knew we wouldn’t get much,” Belt said. “We did a good job of getting those runs early.”
Madison’s Owen Socher (2 for 3, one steal) scored a run in the first inning on a passed ball, then again in the third on an error. Andrew DiFranciso (1 for 3) scored in the third on Pete Nielsen’s sacrifice fly.
“With Jake you have to be quick to the ball, and I think we were tonight when we hit it,” Socher said.
Nielsen had Madison’s other hit.
Madison right-hander Nick Brady started and worked five innings and lefty Brian Eckert pitched the last two. Neither walked a batter. Brady recorded 11 groundball outs. He allowed four hits. Eckert gave up one hit with two strikeouts.
“When Brady is on the bump, he pitches to contact and we make the plays behind him,” Belt said. “Batters can’t figure him out.”
For Langley, Jordan Lopez and Patrick Amano-Dolan each had two hits and McSteen had the other.
“Jake pitched well for us,” Langley coach Kevin Healy said. “They put some pressure on us and we made some mistakes. Madison capitalized on their opportunities. They also made some good plays, especially Belt.”
On the bases, Langley had a runner picked off first and another thrown out at third trying to advance on a passed ball.
Madison coach Mark Gjormand thought the key to the victory was getting an early run against McSteen to give his team the advantage and some momentum.
“I thought we had some good at-bats against him and made them fight for every out,” Gjormand said.
The coach also praised his pitchers and Belt’s defense.
NOTES: Madison was 2-0 in the tournament with two shutouts. The Warhawks walked only batter in the two games and made just one error . . . Madison has eight shutouts this season . . . The Warhawks wore their old jersey vest uniform tops in the championship game. They had not been worn since 2004 . . . For a story on Madison’s semifinal win over Washington-Lee, visit www.insidenova.com/sports/fairfax/.