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Riverview Rams baseball has their season drastically end with regional semifinal loss against Durant

Ian Dempsey '21

Staff Writer

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, as is the case with the playoff run for the Rams varsity baseball squad. With a 7-0 loss against Durant (Plant City) last Wednesday night in the regional semifinals of Class 7A, Riverview’s season was done just like that. Nobody expected this outcome, especially after the Rams initially blanked them by a score of 10-0 in the district championship game. In order to score runs though, you must be able to hit and that’s exactly what Durant (Plant City) did. Carving up a total of twelve hits and earning three free passes via walk or hit batter, most of their damage came against Rams starting pitcher Pip Smalley. The junior gave up half those hits and walked two batters while giving up two earned runs. He lasted four and a third innings, forcing head coach Jeremy Schmidt to go to the bullpen. Sophomore pitcher Luke Jackson relieved Smalley, only to last one third of an inning where he gave up three more hits and another run. After Jackson came junior pitcher Nick Garcia and this was where the wheels ultimately started to fall off. The first batter Garcia faced was hit by an 0-2 pitch to make it 4-0, but the next sequence was even worse. With the bases loaded and two outs, the ball was stroked just fair down the first base line and rolled down to the right field fence, allowing all three runners to score and nearly double the lead for Durant (Plant City). This was all the offense they needed as their pitching took care of the rest. Even though the Rams compiled six hits, their situational hitting wasn’t the best as they left ten runners on base. Despite this abrupt ending to Riverview’s season, they should be extremely proud of what they were able to accomplish. With preseason included, the Rams finished at a 21-10 record, or .677 winning percentage which is about a 2:1 win-loss ratio. In other words, for every three games played, the Rams won two of those three games. Furthermore, Riverview did something it hadn’t done in 6 years by winning a district championship on their home field and then went on to win a regional playoff game for the first time in 29 years. To really put this into perspective, about that much time has passed since Riverview’s current coaches were playing high school baseball. Some coaches were part of the squads at Sarasota that won state and national championships during the early-to-mid 1990’s while other coaches were playing elsewhere around the country. As a result, the Riverview Rams baseball program hasn’t seen much success in the past couple decades due to the Sarasota Sailors’ domination of the area. However, with Sarasota being upset by Gulf Coast (Naples) this year in the regional quarterfinals of Class 6A, the tides could potentially be turning and signaling that Riverview will have the brighter future. Not only did Sarasota lose to Gulf Coast (Naples) as Venice was also defeated by them in the regional semifinals on the same night Riverview lost to Durant (Plant City). Both schools were destined to make it farther into the playoffs, with states being the goal for each program. But now that the season has ended for Riverview, the focus shifts to next year. Of the twenty members on the squad this past year, twelve of them were juniors and the other eight were seniors. While Will Pacheco, Carter Knight, Kyle Upman, Karson Ligon, Jakobi Davis, Ian Dempsey, Clemente Febus, and Cole Griffith may have played their final game in a Riverview Rams uniform that night, they will leave such a monumental impact on the program as their guidance and knowledge of the game is never to be forgotten. They have enormously helped pave the way for the rising seniors, which are comprised of Chris Barr, Dylan Wilds, Nick Garcia, Cooper Bowditch, Garrett Johnson, Zach McIntire, Pip Smalley, Austin Harford, Brandon Viera, Clay Russin, Sean Sugg, and Vic Snyder. Additionally, for the five underclassmen that had the privilege of joining the varsity squad during their playoff run, encompassed of sophomores Landon Gierhart and Luke Jackson and freshmen Cooper Backman, Elijah Hurt, and Will St. Onge, they gained much wisdom from the seniors too. As a matter of fact, some of these rising sophomores may get the opportunity to play on varsity next season. Hurt appeared in a couple games late during the regular season and in the playoffs as a pinch runner and even started in left field for the district semifinal game against Newsome (Lithia). Mentioned previously, Jackson got the chance to pitch in the last playoff game but also earned some playing time at second base and started some games throughout the IMG National Classic earlier this year. Yet, to conclude, five of the eight seniors graduating in 2021 will be taking their talents to the next level, compared to four more than the previous year. Pacheco will be playing at Rochester Institute of Technology in Minnesota, Ligon will be playing at the University of Miami, Davis will be playing at Cornell University in New York, Dempsey will be playing at Lesley University in Massachusetts, and Griffith will be playing at Polk State College. We wish the best of luck to these boys!

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