Ian Dempsey ‘21
From the friendly confines behind Suncoast Technical College, two masterful performances were put on display this past Monday and Wednesday, Feb. 8 and 10. The Riverview Rams’ Varsity baseball squad defeated both of their opponents in the Preseason Classic to build some early momentum for the upcoming season. Securing a 3-2 victory over IMG Black on Monday and walking off Palmetto 5-4 on Wednesday by virtue of junior infielder Pip Smalley’s two-run double down the right field line, the Rams came out with the result they were hoping to obtain. These two wins were nothing short of a stroll in the park, as it took a massive amount of heart and hustle to grind out each game to the bitter end.
In the first game, with IMG Black leading 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth, senior outfielder Jakobi Davis led off the inning with a walk and then reached second on a passed ball. With head coach Jeremy Schmidt analyzing the situation at hand, he called out a sign for senior infielder/outfielder Carter Knight to put a bunt down and move Davis over to third. And so he did, as his execution was absolutely perfect. With a runner on third now and one out, senior outfielder Ian Dempsey came to the plate with a chance to tie the game. Say no more, as on the first pitch, Dempsey gulfed a single to left field and brought Davis home to knot up the score. Pointing at Dempsey as he crossed the plate, Dempsey was ecstatic after delivering that clutch hit. Soon thereafter, junior infielder Dylan Wilds grounded into a fielder’s choice, and then junior Chris Barr drew another walk to put runners on first and second with two outs. Up to the plate came Smalley, as he reached on an infield single to second, but Wilds wasn’t satisfied with just reaching third base as he observed the placement of the ball took the second baseman towards the line, allowing him to take a gamble and break the tie. As a result, that gamble was worthwhile, as he slid face-first into home plate, beating the throw to make it a 2-1 score in favor of Riverview. One more run was added that inning, courtesy of a passed ball, scoring Barr. IMG Black never gave up as they answered back in the top of the sixth with one run, making it 3-2. Yet, that was the closest they would get as junior pitcher Nick Garcia came in relief to earn the save and give the Rams a ginormous win.
With the second game two days later, the Rams looked to repeat and sweep the Preseason Classic against Palmetto. The top of the third, however, could have proven to be a costly inning, as the Rams gave up three runs to go down 3-0. They needed someone to ignite a spark as Dempsey once again, in the bottom of the fourth, came through in the clutch by driving in Smalley from second with a single to right field to make it 3-1. Knight then drove in Russin, and Dempsey reached third with one out. With Wilds at the plate, he was looking to bring in the tying run as no swing was necessary to do. Another passed ball allowed Dempsey to slide in
safely and tie the game at 3 apiece. But that lead would be short-lived as Palmetto cashed in on a single to center. With runners and first and second, there would be a chance for a play at the plate, as Dempsey had that glorious opportunity to throw the runner out. His throw was right on the money, and it appeared as if he gunned the runner down, but the home plate umpire ruled him safe, drawing shock and disapproval from the entire Rams fan base. Dempsey was able to keep himself calm and composed though as he reached first in the bottom of the sixth via a walk. Unfortunately, he was stranded at second as the Rams were unable to tie the game back up. However, the seventh and final inning proved to be one for the ages. Barr reached base for the first time on a single up the middle, and senior utility Kyle Upman walked, setting up runners on first and second with one out, and a chance for Smalley to be the hero. With two hits in this game from his previous at-bats, Smalley was looking for the third and final one that would put the game away for good. A 3-4 night at the plate does not sound so bad right? Indeed, it does not, as Smalley got an outside pitch and drove it into deep right field down the line. With Barr stealing on the pitch, he scored with ease to tie the score, yet Upman had to follow behind him and complete the same task as he slid face-first, beating the throw from the infielder to give the Rams a come-from-behind victory over Palmetto.
With the conclusion of the preseason, the Rams will open the regular season at home against Braden River on Feb. 16, and play host to Sarasota on Feb. 19 next week. The Rams’ baseball Instagram page, riverviewramsbaseball, is the location for where all the scores are posted, along with mentions of some players on the baseball squad.