Every spring since the school opened 40 years ago, Chantilly High has fielded a baseball team. But when the Chargers seized the 6A North regional championship Friday with a 12-0 trouncing of McLean, they accomplished something no Chantilly baseball team had ever done before.
“It means a lot,” said Kevin Ford, now in his ninth year as head coach. “The Chantilly community is so awesome. There were so many old-time Chantilly people here wishing us luck, it really means a lot.”
The blowout victory in the title game put a large exclamation point on a tournament run that saw the 17-7 Chargers — the second seed from Conference 5 — upend four other 6A North contenders by a combined score of 30-1.
McLean (15-11) — seeded fourth from Conference 6 — walked onto Chantilly’s diamond having defeated three higher-seeded squads to punch a ticket to the region final and secure the 6A state tourney berth that comes with it.
But the Chargers shocked the Highlanders immediately, putting up a 14-batter, eight-hit, nine-run opening inning in which the first six men reached base and five Chantilly hitters collected RBIs. Six of those runs were driven in with two outs, including a three-run blast off Mike Sciorra’s bat that just missed banging off the scoreboard in left field.
“It was the first pitch, a little inside, and I just flew my hands at it and got it on the barrel,” said Sciorra, now author of two homers in his senior season. “I barely felt it. I didn’t look at it but as I rounded first base, I heard everyone cheering.”
Ford searched his memory bank and remarked, “I can’t recall having an inning like that in a long time.”
The Chantilly coach pointed to the game’s first at-bat, when Ben McGrath made a backhanded dive to take a hit away from McLean’s Joey Sullivan, as a tone-setter for the rest of the game.
While grandstands full of fans looked on, the game was played in two hours, a quarter of which was consumed by Chantilly’s half of the first inning.
The big early lead was more than enough for junior right-hander Matt Hogle. The tall, lanky hurler tossed seven scoreless, striking out five while scattering four hits and two walks on 85 pitches.
Matt Bielamowicz, with a walk and a single, was the only McLean batter to reach base twice. Only one Highlander got as far as third base, when Caleb Beatty walked and Ben Clines doubled in the sixth. Hogle proceeded to strand both runners with a strikeout.
Centerfielder Sciorra turned in the game’s defensive gem that same inning when he raced toward the infield to make a diving grab of a sinking liner, robbing Jesse Jones of a hit.
“We were just so pumped to play this game, it felt like we were already winning before it even started,” said Sciorra, who finished 3-for-4 with five RBI and three runs scored. He added a two-out two-run double in the sixth for good measure.
Eason Recto had two hits, an RBI and three runs scored. Grant Bain clubbed two hits, scored a run and drove in another. Tommy Vance and Colby Ryan each delivered 2-run singles, both in the first inning.
Every Chantilly starter had at least one hit on the night except Aaron Osborne, who was plunked by a first-inning pitch and came around to score.
McLean used four pitchers against Chantilly, though ace righty Sullivan was not available after pitching the Highlanders to victory in the region semis.
The contest was of historical significance for McLean too, as it represented the first ever region title appearance in the Highlanders’ 59-year history. But first-year head coach John Dowling was ready to move on right after the sound defeat.
“I’d like [the team] to take nothing away from tonight. Just get rid of it,” Dowling said. “All credit to Chantlly...but in a perfect world, I’d move past this. We have a week to prepare and get back on track.”
Both teams will be in the four-team 6A state tourney, slated to begin Friday at Robinson Secondary School. McLean will face South region champion Western Branch at 3 p.m. before Chantilly battles South runner-up Cosby at 7.
Ford said the starting nod would go to Recto, his ace right-hander. Dowling would not say who he was planning to start in the state semis.
For several Chargers, the state tournament will not be the first time they’ve played baseball under a bright spotlight.
As 12-year-old Little Leaguers, Sciorra, Recto, Bain, McGrath and others were members of a Chantilly Youth Association all-star team that won its way to a regional tournament in Warner Robins, Ga., and even played before ESPN cameras.
The crop had been teammates since well before then.
“We were eight or nine years old all playing together,” said Sciorra, a senior. “We’ve grown up with each other, we know each other so well, it’s just a lot of fun to go for a championship with them. We’re family.”
That “family” hopes to stay together for a couple more ballgames, perhaps making even more history for their high school.