The Southwestern Youth Association East 11-12 All-Stars entered Monday night’s District 10 championship Little League game with plenty of confidence. In four district tournament games, they had outscored opponents 71-4, and their league’s seemingly annual appearance in the championship game gave them a sense of familiarity with this stage.
If SYA East’s championship opponent was supposed to be intimidated, though, they didn’t do a good job showing it. The Fairfax National All-Stars, who had squeaked into the final with a 4-3 win over Chantilly American, came out firing on Monday and put SYA East on the wrong end of a one-sided 7-0 scoreline.
Fairfax National’s Andrew Dunetz and Lars Wathne got the scoring started in the second inning with two solo home runs, followed by another solo shot in the third inning from Cameron Price. Nick Margraf sealed the outcome in the sixth inning with a blast over the left field fence that scored three runners.
Brien Krug set the tone on the mound with three shutout innings to start the game. Dunetz took over from there, striking out three batters to close out the final three frames and preserve the shutout. Neither pitcher recorded a walk.
“Our team played really good defense and helped our pitchers out a lot,” said Dunetz, part of a group of Fairfax National pitchers that compiled a 1.66 ERA over the tournament’s five games. “We hit really well against a team that also hits really well, and we just shut them out.”
Fairfax National’s pitching staff came up clutch against a hard-hitting SYA East squad, but perhaps equally impressive were the pinch hitters that helped the team reach that point. Price, Sean Goggins, Jonas Murphy and Ethan Macht formed a core called the “Goon Squad,” named after the Washington Nationals’ group of pinch hitters. Goon Squad hitters batted .381 and recorded a slugging percentage of .619 with a double, a home run and five RBI over the course of the tournament.
At the end of the day, though, the contributions of every person on the roster helped Fairfax National secure the league’s first District 10 Majors title since 2003.
“The best part is that they know how to pick each other up,” Fairfax National manager Julius Rothstein said. “They know that there’s 18 outs, and so if they come to bat and get one out, they know that one of their teammates is going to pick them up. That really has been the hallmark of this team that we’ve been trying to instill in them. We win as a team, and they’ve been great at buying into that concept.”
That next-man-up camaraderie was evident even before the team finalized its All-Star roster this summer. Rothstein serves as one of the coaches for the Burke Bulldogs, a travel team on which 11 of Fairfax National’s 13 players have played on, some of them for the past four years.
“Most of us are all on the same travel team, the Bulldogs,” Margraf said. “I think we just work together well. We’re a team that’s already built together. We know each other well, and we know how people hit awesomely and that kind of thing.”
District champions at the 10-11 level last year, Fairfax National returned seven players from last year’s unit and has improved this summer with the addition of six new players. Heading into their first game of the state tournament on Friday, Rothstein hopes his group can draw on last year’s experience at states to advance further this time around.
“I really think that this team can go as far as they want to, but we have to start with states,” Rothstein said. “We’re not thinking about anything beyond there. There are some very, very good teams down there. But I think one of the hallmarks of a good team is experience. A lot of these boys were in states last year, and hopefully we can draw upon that experience in Lynchburg.”