Vying to defend their Concorde District title, the Westfield Bulldogs battled the Oakton Cougars in a scoreless game for three innings.
But a double to right-center field from the Cougars' designated hitter Ty Carroll with two outs in the bottom of the fourth would drive in the game-winning run, the first of seven to shut out the Bulldogs.
"I was approaching my at-bats like batting practice. We had a lefty on the mound, and we had a lefty pitching BP. So I went in there visualizing BP," said Carroll, who has hit the game-winning RBI in the last two games. "When I hit it, what was going through my mind was, 'That's a start. This game is going to go in a positive direction from here.'"
Westfield's southpaw Aaron Hoover had a solid outing, notching six hits, four walks and five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings on the mound.
"I thought he pitched exceptionally well," said Westfield head coach Chuck Welch of the Concorde District's pitcher of the year. "It's nearly impossible to pitch and continue to compete without any run support. If we're still 1-0 late in the game, we're still in it. We just have to score. We didn't."
The offense could not get on the board, stifled by Oakton's Andy Gross for five innings and relievers Taiyo Francis and Chad Carroll in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively. Gross struck out just one batter, but his pitch control largely kept runners off the base path, as he gave up just three hits and walked two batters.
"Andy was outstanding," said Justin Janis, Oakton's head coach and Concorde District's Coach of the Year. "When I talked to him before the game I asked him to give us three good innings. Then he goes out and does what he did, and it was great to see. We had three seniors step up on the mound and give us a shutout. We can't ask for anything better."
The Bulldogs had their best chance of scoring in the first inning when they loaded the bases — singles from Hoover and Wade Arduini, and a walk to Hayden Ferington — with just one out in the inning, but Danny Bulas hit into a double play to end the inning.
They threatened again in the second, moving Josh Luatua, who had reached on a single to center field, all the way to third base with a sacrifice bunt and sacrifice fly, but a lineout would end the inning, leaving the Bulldogs scoreless. Westfield would only put one more runner in scoring position.
"We talked before the game. I said, 'OK, let's try to keep them under three runs. We can score three or four,'" Janis said. "That's kinda how you have to think in these bigger games. Pitching's going to win these games."
The Cougars gave themselves insurance in the sixth inning, scoring six of their seven runs, largely because of fielding errors and timely hitting from Austin Lamon and Chris Hanson, who hit doubles for two RBI each.
"I really thought the team just came together. Our pitching was dominant. I made mistakes, my team picked me up," said Hanson, referring to a throwing error he made in the top of the sixth inning. "We just had the right guys to get the job done. When you have a bad at-bat or make a mistake, you can't let that get to you. Your teammates are still depending on you."
The Bulldogs relinquish their title to the Cougars, who haven't been Concorde District Champions since 2006.
Both teams qualify for the Northern Region tournament, which begins Friday. Both teams will also host games that begin at 7 p.m., though their opponents have not yet been determined.
Hits: Austin Lamon (double, single), Ty Carroll (double), Chris Hanson (double), Chad Carroll (single), Mason Hauser (single), Joey Bartosic (single)
RBI: Lamon (2), Hanson (2), T. Carroll (1), Hauser (1), C. Carroll (1)