A late-season loss to their neighborhood rival, when they admittedly played poorly, changed the fortunes for the Oakton Cougars.
Since that 11-5, five-error, eight-walk, one hit batter and two-wild-pitch setback to the Madison Warhawks, Oakton regrouped to win five straight games, including three in the Concorde District baseball tournament to capture that high-school competition.
The third-seeded Cougars (17-6) did so by defeating top-seed Chantilly Chargers, 4-2, in 10 innings in the championship game.
In the semifinals, Oakton nipped the No. 2-seeded South Lakes Seahawks, 4-3. That came after a 7-1 first-round win over the Centreville Wildcats.
“We didn’t play well in that loss to Madison,” Oakton coach Justin Janis said. “After that, we focused on taking care of the ball and going back to basics. We’ve been much better on defense.”
During its five-game winning streak, Oakton has allowed no more than three runs in any contest.
In the championship game, Oakton scored two runs in the top of the 10th to pull ahead, 4-2. Starting pitcher Ryan Sleight (eight innings, no earned runs or walks, 85 pitches) and reliever Noah Toole (two innings, one hit, one earned run) combined on a three-hitter. Toole got the win.
With the bat in the final, Ethan Jones homered and had two hits, Will Dornbusch doubled and had two hits, Robbie Lavey and Zach DeKoven each added two hits, and Aaron Fu and Thomas Huitema each had one hit. The Cougars totaled 10 hits.
Against South Lakes, lefty Tanner Vislay started and worked five innings to get the win, striking out nine, walking one and allowing three hits. Toole pitched the final two frames to earn the save.
“Tanner has been very sharp and composed all season and he has mixed his pitches well,” Janis said.
Toole had three hits and an RBI, and stole two bases. Jones doubled, had two hits and an RBI, Reid Steinberg added a hit and one RBI and Dornbusch had a hit. Oakton had six hits and made no errors.
“We have a solid roster up and down the lineup, we have a good group of seniors, and we have a lot of depth. That’s all been a big strength for us,” Janis said.
Last season, when Oakton was not as experienced, the Cougars struggled to a 4-8 record.
“We are older and better this season,” Janis said
NOTE: Oakton last won the district tournament in 2017.