The hardest achievement in all of sports is to win a championship. Many different factors, including a bit of luck, must come together in order to take a team to the top. If you look back in history to championship-winning teams, they were all fortunate to have those factors align at the right moments. However, present in all championship teams is one consistent attribute: Commitment.
Through all of the ups and downs of a baseball season, championship teams do not let one game define them, but commit to using each game as an opportunity to learn. They do not show up to the practice field to go through the motions, but commit to treating each practice as a valuable time to learn and make the team stronger. They do not give up and make excuses when things are going wrong, but commit to coming together as a team.
On Sunday evening at Barcroft Field, a group of 12 committed young men achieved their goal and left the field as the NVTBL 11U Champions. In this special edition of Around The Horn, let’s take a closer look at the 11U Green Waves remarkable and well-deserved Championship run!
8 Wins 2 Losses; 5th Overall in NVTBL
After a very successful inaugural 10U campaign, Coach Mark Brown and Coach Greg Albertini began the season with high hopes for the new 11U Green Wave. At the first practice, the team agreed and committed to one goal: win the NVTBL Championship.
In the first few weeks of the season, 11U’s recipe for success was quality starting pitching and timely hitting. Andrew L. and Wells T. made up the front-line of the rotation as they continued to notch quality starts and keep their team in the game. As the pitching staff did their part, the offense came up with clutch hit after clutch hit, including rookie Harry R. who delivered a walkoff single to complete the Sunday Sweep of Dig In Baseball back on September 18th.
In the middle of the season, the 11U Green Wave hit their share of roadblocks as the team was having trouble finding their groove and closing games out. In addition, power-hitter and defensive specialist Will H. went down with a wrist injury. But the team stayed committed to their goal, and the doubleheader on September 25th turned out to be one of the most defining moments of the season. After dropping Game 1 to the underdog DC Dynasty and falling behind early in Game 2 to the Herndon Hawks, team captains Connor B. and Jay W. brought the team together. Koa sources were unable to confirm what was said in the meeting, but the message was clearly heard by the team. The 11U Green Wave scored 17 unanswered runs in the come-from-behind victory.
Following the big win, newly acquired rookie Kosuke H. joined the 11U Green Wave and was welcomed with open arms by his teammates and coaching staff. His presence helped ignite 11U’s 8-game win streak as they prepared for battle in the NVTBL Playoffs.
NVTBL Playoffs- Pool Play
Sunday October 30th
In the Pool Play round of the NVTBL Playoffs, teams play a doubleheader with their Bracket Play seeding on the line. Every inning is crucial in Pool Play, but the 11U Green Wave were not intimated and remained committed to reaching Championship Sunday.
11U matched up against the Arlington Arsenal and Virginia Cannons in Pool Play… two highly-regarded programs in NVTBL. In Game 1 against the Arsenal, Kosuke H. got the start on the mound and dazzled through 4 innings. Massimo “Mo” L. got the offense started in the 1st inning with an RBI single – his first of three hits – that scored Connor B. The offense never looked back after that as the team went on to win in a 15-5 blowout.
Much of the same in Game 2, as Andrew L. and Wells T. combined to pitch 4 superb innings against the free-swinging Cannons from Virginia. The offense scored a staggering 10 runs in the 1st inning capped off by a big RBI knock from Luke S. to put the game out of reach. 11U went on to win big 19-3.
Outscoring their opponents 34-8 in Pool Play, the 11U Green Wave returned to practice to prepare for win-or-go-home Bracket Play. Four victories stood between 11U and the NVTBL Championship.
NVTBL Playoffs- Bracket Play vs Arlington Aces
Saturday November 5th
In playoff baseball, we see heroes step up in clutch moments to push their team over the top. During 11U’s first Bracket Play matchup, we saw the emergence of the terrific trio of Simon R., Nate M., and JB H. The three-man wrecking crew mans consecutive spots in the 11U lineup and were unfazed by the hard-throwing Aces pitching staff. The trio of Simon-Nate-JB notched consecutive hits 3 times throughout the game that contributed to a blowout 19-6 Green Wave victory.
3 wins away.
NVTBL Playoffs- Quarterfinals vs Fauquier Raiders
Sunday November 6th
What every baseball player dreams of: controlling your own destiny on the last day of the season. As 11U arrived at Linway Park on Sunday morning, they set to play the first of three potential games. They matched up against the Fauquier Raiders who have been notorious for big comebacks.
Coach Mark Brown gave the ball to Andrew L. in the Quarterfinal matchup, and Andrew did not give the ball back until after the fifth inning (5 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 4 K). The offense once again got rolling early with big RBI hits from Connor B. and Massimo L. that cushioned the Green Wave lead. Up 11-0 in the last inning, the Raiders clawed their way back to score 6 runs, but Kosuke H. came in to shut the door and seal the 11-6 victory.
2 wins away.
NVTBL Playoffs- Semifinals vs Metro Senators
Sunday November 6th
The 11U Green Wave faced their toughest opponent of the season as they squared off with the Metro Senators (NVTBL AAA Team) in the Semifinals. Kosuke H. got the nod on the mound in his biggest start of his young Koa career. The Senators got to him early as they pushed two runs across in the first. But Kosuke H. responded by shutting the Senators down for the next four innings. Holding a 4-2 lead in the 4th, the three-man wrecking crew went at it again with beautiful station-to-station baseball. With the bases loaded, the back-end of the terrific trio delivered as both Simon R. and Nate M. delivered with RBI hits (Simon R.’s hit plated JB H.) In the last inning, Coach Mark called on closer Jay W. to finish off the last three outs. With one out and a runner on first base, Jay W. induced a groundball to first baseman Andrew L. who completed the 3-6 double play to send the 11U Green Wave to the Championship.
1 win away.
NVTBL Playoffs- Championship Game vs GHBL Rangers
Sunday November 6th
The stage was set. Green Wave vs Rangers. The best pitching staff in the playoffs vs the best home-run hitting lineup in the playoffs. Both teams exhausted from the long day of baseball, but still committed to achieving their preseason goal.
The Green Wave turned to young Wells T. who took the mound and stared 50 feet away at a team that had a knack for the long ball. In the first inning, the Rangers had no answer for Well’s 12-6 hook as he allowed only 1 unearned run. In the bottom of the first, the Green Wave took a 2-1 lead with RBI hits from Connor B. and Andrew L. In the second inning, the Rangers clawed two runs which prompted Jay W. to come on in relief. Trailing 4-2, 1 out, and runners on 1st and 3rd, Jay W. struck out the next two Rangers to maintain a two run ball game.
The Green Wave offense got rolling in the bottom of the second inning. After a bases loaded walk by Kosuke H. to bring home a run, Connor B. came to the plate with the bases loaded once again… and he delivered! CB hammered a fastball deep and off the fence, clearing the bases and giving the Green Wave a 6-4 lead. Koa was still cooking in the second as Massimo L., JB H., and Harry R. followed with RBI knocks to put the Green Wave up 9-4 after two.
As the offense got in a groove, Jay W. – the youngest member of the team – absolutely dominated and delivered one of the best postseason performances in Koa History. After taking over in the second inning, Jay W. went on to pitch 3.2 innings while striking out 8 and surrendering only one hit.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, the 11U Green Wave took the field up 12-4 and only three outs away from a Championship. Coach Mark Brown called for the lefty as Andrew L. toed the rubber to close this one out. He struck out the leadoff hitter, then surrendered a base hit. With a runner on and one out, Andrew L. struck out the leading homerun hitter of the tournament. The next batter walked.
So with two outs, two men on, and a full count, Andrew L. took the mound one last time… Cue the music!
The 11U Green Wave danced their way into Koa History as the first travel team to ever win an NVTBL Championship! The team’s hard work, dedication, and commitment propelled them to the top, and they can now call themselves the 11U Champions.
Congratulations to Coach Mark Brown, Coach Greg Albertini, Jay W., Harry R., Wells T., Nate M., Massimo L., JB H., Luke S., Andrew L., Kosuke H., Simon R., Connor B., and Will H!