McLean pitcher Brock Hunter could sense his team was in a rut during the middle of a three-game losing streak last week.
After opening the season 4-1, a team that many figured to be one of the Northern Region’s best suddenly was in a slump with losses against Westfield, Fairfax and Oakton.
“In that losing streak we hadn’t been hitting the ball well and we’d been moving the line-ups around a lot,” Hunter said. “We weren’t playing great baseball.”
That didn’t sit well with Hunter. But on the eve of McLean’s spring break tournament, the senior could sense that big wins were on the way. The team’s bats, which seemed dormant, were beginning to heat up, and the team chemistry began to brew.
“After the Oakton loss, we were hitting better and we took it as a sign that we were going to do a lot better,” he said.
It all came together on Monday afternoon when McLean blasted West Springfield, 19-0.
“That game got everybody’s confidence up again,” Hunter said. “[West Springfield] is a good team, so to do that to them helped us.”
The biggest win of the season was followed by an upset of unbeaten Lake Braddock, 5-2, on Tuesday.
The Bruins, who entered the game 9-0, found themselves stymied by McLean’s defense and Hunter’s pitching.
McLean jumped ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning after RBIs from Nathan Goff and Cole Oldenburg.
Despite having the bases loaded in the third and fourth, the Bruins were able to only score once against Hunter, who credited the team’s defense with maintaining the lead.
“[The Bruins] were putting the ball in play a lot, but we got lucky with a few line drives right at people,” Hunter said. “The runners weren’t advancing well because our defense was stopping the ball and keeping it in the infield.”
Lake Braddock tied the score in the top of the fifth with an RBI from Alex Lewis. But McLean plated three more runs in the sixth.
In the seventh, Hunter and the Highlanders defense locked in and made short work of any comeback attempt.
“It’s a good win for us,” McLean coach John Thomas said. “It reaffirms to our players what we’re capable of. That was an important thing to us because our confidence took a hit last week and in every phase of the game we were not good.”
Thomas said an early season win against a top opponent might breed confidence, but isn’t sure if it will give his team momentum as Liberty District play picks up this month.
The players, however, are aware of the game’s significance.
“That’s who we’re going to be playing in the playoffs,” Hunter said. “Those are the teams that we need to know that we can beat. We were able to do that today.”
McLean returns to action at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against; Lake Braddock will face Annandale at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.