By Owen Gotimer
Viva Loudoun College Intern
Sterling (May 24, 2013) – The top four hitters in the Potomac Falls High School batting order combined for six hits, reached base eight times and scored all four runs in the Panthers 4-3 win over Heritage Friday night in the Dulles District baseball tournament championship. It was the Panthers third title in the last five years.
“The top of our order needs to get it started,” senior cleanup hitter Zachary Engelmann said. “We’re knocking in runs. But it was a total team effort. We need the whole order to win games. Everyone is important and everyone showed up tonight.”
Engelmann went 2-for-3, driving in two runs while also getting the call on the mound for the regular season champion Panthers.
“I just needed to go out there and pitch my game,” Engelmann said. “This was the third time I faced Heritage so they obviously knew what I can do.”
The Pride may have seen Engelmann twice before the championship game, but the southpaw’s fastball-curveball combination proved superior as he allowed only two hits in 4.2 innings.
“It was Zach’s turn,” Panther’s coach Joe Terango said. “I trust him on the mound in the big game.”
Engelmann allowed just one run, before Terango made a pitching change, bringing in the Dulles District Player of the Year Brandon Orbe.
“I let Zach get done what he could get done,” said Terango, who has coached the Panthers to seven straight Dulles District title appearancess. “We knew we had Orbe in relief. We had him ready and we brought him in when Zach got into trouble.”
Orbe escaped the jam in the fifth when Engelmann, who took over in right field after being taken off the mound, made a catch against the fence in foul territory to end the inning.
“I was just trying to throw to contact there and let my defense do their job,” said Orbe, a unanimous first team Dulles District selection at shortstop. “I trust them completely. I really want to give credit to the defense: they always play well behind me.”
The Panthers and Pride played in two, one-run ballgames this season so defense is as important as offense when facing the Pride and their above-average pitching staff led by junior Zack Hopeck.
“We knew we were going to see a good pitcher tonight,” Terango said. “[Hopeck] beat us last time around. Our game plan was to have short swings and put the ball in play. We did just that and it worked for us.”
Orbe emphasized that Terango “harps” to his team about cutting down on their swings at every practice and before every game in order to challenge the defense.
Heritage’s defense was challenged but came through making a couple highlight-reel plays.
In the bottom of the third, the Pride’s freshman catcher Chad Koehler made a diving tag at the plate after receiving a throw from right fielder Matt Chapman to put out the Panthers Michael Smith trying to score.
Then in the fifth, sophomore Jack Howard made a diving stab on a ball well to his left, popped up and threw out the runner at first base.
However, the effort by the Pride’s defense wasn’t enough.
“We had a chance today,” Heritage’s coach Ryan Price said. “We had a good opponent. You have to play your best game to beat them, and we played slightly less than our best game tonight.”
Heritage will advance to play in the Region II tournament in a game on Monday, May 27 against the Loudoun Valley Vikings in Leesburg at 6 p.m.
“We’ll put in the stuff we know we need to be successful against Loudoun Valley and protect against the things we know they’re going to try do to us,” Price said. “I think we’re going to get another good pitching performance from our guys. Hopefully things work out in our favor and we can head to Tuesday.”
The Panthers already have a game time on Tuesday and will take on Millbrook High School in the quarterfinal of the Region II tournament at 6 p.m. in Sterling.
“We understand Millbrook has a pretty good team,” Terango said. “Our philosophy is to play our brand of baseball. We’re going to come out here and work hard. We’re going to play Potomac Falls’ baseball.”
Engelmann said it best, “We just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Orbe 2-4, R
Curtis BB, R
Smith 2-3, BB, R
Engelmann 2-3, R, 2 RBI
O’Brien 1-3, RBI
Daczkowski 1-3, RBI, SB
Peters 1-4, 3B, RBI
Hopeck 1-3, 2B, R
Kobylinski 1-2, BB, RBI
Wood BB, R
Howard 1-2, BB, R
Chapman sac bunt, RBI
Turner sac bunt
Engelmann W 4.2 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 BB, 3 K
Orbe 2.1 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 H, 1 BB
Hopeck L 3 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 4 K
Turner 3 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 4 K
Owen Gotimer just completed his freshman year at Syracuse University and is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg