For Lake Braddock’s softball team, 2013 was a breakout year that won’t soon be forgotten. The Bruins dropped just one regular-season contest on their way to 21 wins, their efforts culminating in a Patriot District championship that snapped South County’s run of six consecutive district titles.
If opponents were scared of the Bruins last year, they ought to be downright terrified this year. All but one player returns to Lake Braddock’s lineup this season, not to mention the addition of three promising freshmen. Standout pitcher Ashley Flesch is back to lead an intimidating defense, while fellow first-team all-region selection Amanda Hendrix returns to headline a bevy of dangerous hitters.
Yet the firepower on their roster might not be the scariest thing about the Bruins this spring. Opponents should instead beware of the heightened motivation spurring Lake Braddock these days, a fire lit by their surprise season-ending loss to Centreville in the first round of regionals last May.
While they will first have to answer to a senior-laden South County squad in conference competition, the Bruins are determined to achieve regional supremacy this spring, a distinction they haven’t tasted since 2002. To get there they will need to avoid settling for anything less.
“I think they were just so sky high in winning that title because it had been since 2001 since they actually won the district,” said George Rumore, now in his eighth season at the Lake Braddock helm, his 35th year of coaching overall. “We had been getting better and better and building and building. I think it took a lot out of them emotionally because they accomplished the goal they set out to do. I guess that’s my fault for not setting the bar higher.”
The regional trophy might linger in the back of their minds, but right now the Bruins are too busy crushing teams on their regular-season slate to think about anything else. To prepare his hitters for tough outings down the line, Rumore went out of his way to schedule area powers with strong pitching staffs in the season’s early going. Foul weather canceled their scrimmage against Paul VI, but they did manage a 3-2 exhibition win against a deep Langley team.
The Bruins set the tone with a statement win the following week, besting longtime juggernaut Bishop O’Connell 2-1 to open the season. Flesch didn’t give up a hit until the seventh inning of that game, fanning batter after batter against a team that beat Holy Cross 16-1 two weeks earlier.
“It was a big boost for our team,” said Flesch, who recorded five strikeouts in two innings of work during the Bruins’ 21-0 romp over West Springfield on Tuesday. “It really gave us fuel to carry through the next week or two.”
Their status as top dogs in Northern Virginia solidified, Lake Braddock opened conference play with a 20-0 beatdown against Lee two days later. Then came Tuesday’s domination of West Springfield, a five-inning affair that saw the Bruins tally 21 hits.
Hendrix followed Flesch’s performance Tuesday with six strikeouts of her own, highlighting the pitching depth that is sure to give batters fits in the coming weeks. Freshman Patty Maye Ohanian, who dealt three strikeouts in the fifth inning Tuesday, gives the Bruins a reliable third option in the circle this year. She joins a unit that surrendered just one run during the regular season last year against district opponents not named South County.
“I think we have exceptional pitching,” sophomore catcher Caroline Jones said. “I think all three of our pitchers do really well. They’re different types of pitchers, which I think helps to keep teams off balance.”
Though they’ve already played three games and one scrimmage, the Bruins have only practiced outside once so far this season. Their rust should recede quickly next week, when they embark on a spring break tournament that will hand them six games in five days, including challenging matchups against Oakton, Westfield, Robinson and Osbourne.
If they come out of that stretch unscathed, Lake Braddock will cling to the title of regional favorites until someone else shows them otherwise.