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Tuesday, December 7, 2021
FairfaxChili Dogs win a fitting title

Chili Dogs win a fitting title

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Maybe it’s fitting the Chili Dogs won the Northern Virginia College League summer baseball championship – and at Vienna’s renowned Waters Field, no less.

After all, the team was named after those favorite eats that are regularly served just a few steps away from Waters at the historic Vienna Inn.

In fact, some of the Chili Dogs’ coaches and players were headed to that eatery after winning the title July 31 with a 17-5 victory over the Gators in the championship game, and receiving the trophy called the Vienna Inn Cup. The top-seed Chili Dogs (12-6) finished 2-0 in the tourney after a first-round bye, and won their final five games overall.

The team rallied from a 1-0 semifinal deficit to defeat the Bunt Cakes, 4-1, at Waters on July 29 by scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.

By winning the crown, the championship was the second significant title Chili Dogs’ head coach Mark Gjormand and starting shortstop Miguel Echazarreta shared in about a month’s time, and in the same vicinity. The two were members of the Madison High School team that won the Class 6 state crown June 26 on the Warhawks’ home field, just a mile or so from Waters. Gjormand is Madison’s head coach and Echazarreta was the starting senior shortstop/third baseman.

“Going from one championship team to another is awesome and so much fun,” said Echazarreta, who will play college baseball at High Point University. “This team was always so up and ready to play every game.”

Added Gjormand: “This has been a really good June and July. I hope we get an opportunity to win something else the last of August. Anytime you have the chance to win a championship, and do that, it’s special. I liked this team when it was put together.”

Gjormand credited his daughter, Samantha, for doing the majority of the work in drafting and forming the team. She was a manager the last four years for the James Madison University baseball program, so she knows the game well.

“She put the team together and we followed her lead,” the coach said.

One player chosen was McLean High School graduate and leadoff hitter Drew Stieg. He hit .272 with three homers, a double, 10 RBI and four steals entering the playoffs. Stieg was 2 for 3 in the title game with two RBI and had a hit in the semifinal.

“This was such a fun league and fun team to play on, and a great opportunity,” Stieg said.

Former Madison players for the Chili Dogs were Josh Gjormand (the coach’s son), Pete Nielsen, Cooper Hoffman (2021 graduate) and Fitz Halloran. Nielsen was the starting pitcher in the semifinal win, working 5 2/3 innings, scattering six hits and allowing one earned run with two strikeouts. He had one RBI in the title game.

Josh Gjormand was 3 for 4 in the final with a double and one RBI. The University of Lynchburg player missed most of the season with a leg injury and was batting for the first time in a while.

“I was nervous as hell hitting, but I blocked that out of my mind,” Josh Gjormand said. “For me, this season was something special, to get out here and play with these guys and win this title.”

Former Vienna Post 180 standout Avery Neaves also played for the team, along with McLean High graduate Grant Williams, who played at Randolph-Macon College.

Neaves belted a solo homer in the semifinal win to tie the game at 1, giving him 18 RBI for the season and five home runs.

Josh Gjormand, Halloran and Neaves play for the University of Lynchburg, and helped the team win an Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship this past season and earn a Division III NCAA tournament berth. So that trio also picked up another team title in a short period. Derek Furr and Gavin Collins had grand slams for the Chili Dogs in the title game.

“We had a good mix of some very good players,” Mark Gjormand said.

The Bunt Cakes roster included Oakton High School graduate and former Post 180 standout Eric Lingebach, now playing at Christopher Newport University, and Marshall High grad Robert Guenther, a player at Eastern Mennonite University.

 Guenther started and pitched well in the semifinal. He was relieved with one out in the sixth inning. He gave up one earned run and fanned three.

NOTES: Nielsen and Stieg each were members of the Division I George Mason University team this past college season. Neither will return in 2022. Nielsen is transferring to Division I Old Dominion University and Stieg to the initial-season two-year Richard Bland College program. For the Chili Dogs through the regular season, Nielsen had a 3-0 pitching record with a 1.72 earned run average with 27 strikeouts in 201/3 innings. With the bat, Nielson hit .267 with two homers, two doubles, had 11 RBI and six stolen bases. Over two seasons, Nielsen played in 18 games for George Mason, with four homers, six doubles and 12 RBI. “Those are good places for Pete and Drew to end up,” Mark Gjormand said . . . Madison High School graduate Zach Perkins played for the Gators. He entered the championship game with five home runs and 19 hits for the summer season. The left-hander started on the mound in the title game.                

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