Soon after the Northwest Region championship baseball game May 31 in South Riding—a game the homestanding Eagles of Freedom High School lost 13-2 to C.D. Hylton—the players’ focus shifted from the sting of defeat to a sense of anticipation.
Freedom’s next game would be its first ever in a state tournament. That’s something no Eagle baseball players ever had to focus on before.
“I almost can’t describe the feeling because I honestly never expected to be able to play for [states], coming from my freshman year when we were just horrible,” senior centerfielder Joey Plesce said. “Losing was just the way of Freedom, I guess, but now we’ve changed it around. Not just baseball, but the whole school.”
He ran off a list of other Freedom sports that have seen recent success.
“The whole atmosphere’s changed,” Plesce added, recalling some lean times early in his career. “People are coming out to watch us play. It’s unreal.”
Spectators filled the Eagles’ side of the bleachers while another crowd amassed on a hill overlooking the field for the Northwest Region’s title showdown.
Visiting Hylton of the Cardinal District tagged Freedom ace Andrew Lamont with four earned runs over four innings, then got to a pair of relievers for a five-run fifth.
“I think they’re the best team in the region. They certainly were tonight,” Freedom’s third-year coach Jason Treon said.
The Eagles (18-7) cracked the goose egg in the sixth when senior Matt Malacane lined a curveball into left field for a two-run single.
The Freedom slugger knew that would be his final swing on his high school’s home ballfield.
“It’s been some of the best times [here],” he said. “Winning the district, I’ll never forget that. Coming back and beating Broad Run in the seventh inning. We’ve really set the stepping stones for the guys coming into this program.”
Malacane noted that he first felt the Eagles could do special things when he saw his teammates’ dedication during winter workouts, then again when Freedom beat perennial power Potomac Falls.
“No one would have believed we’d get here. I just love proving people wrong,” Malacane said. “My goal after last year was to go to states this year. I knew that was not unobtainable.”
Freedom’s roster of seven seniors, seven juniors and one sophomore has lifted the Eagles to previously unreached levels, including the program’s first regular season and district tournament championships and first appearance in a regional title game—all in their inaugural season at the Group AAA level.
“We’d just reeled off nine in a row and we see ourselves going far in the state tournament,” said Treon, the Cedar Run District’s Coach of the Year. “But we’ll have to have a short memory. You definitely need that in baseball.”
The Eagles travel to Norfolk’s Old Dominion University to open the single-elimination Group AAA state tournament June 5 versus Kellam.
-Update: Freedom’s state quarterfinal game has been pushed back to June 6 at 6 p.m.
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