Ian Dempsey ‘21
Another piece of history was molded into the 2021 season for the Rams’ Varsity baseball squad. For the first time since 1992, Riverview was victorious in a regional playoff game, beating Sickles (Citrus Park) by a score of 4-3 on Friday, May 7.
Once again, Riverview will match up against Durant (Plant City) on May 12, the same team they defeated in the district championship the week before.
Yet, let’s recap the Rams’ momentous win that allowed them to move onto the regional semifinals. Senior pitcher Karson Ligon got the nod on the mound for the second consecutive game as he shone like a star in the night. Despite Sickles (Citrus Park) gaining the first lead of the game in the top of the second inning, Riverview fought right back in the bottom of the third inning, scoring four runs to take a 3-run lead.
Junior infielder Dylan Wilds got it all started with a leadoff triple and then one batter later, junior infielder Pip Smalley reached on an error to the first baseman, which allowed Wilds to tie the game. Smalley was able to get to second base off the miscue as next up came senior catcher Cole Griffith. Griffith laced a single to left-center field that scored Smalley from second and provided the Rams their first lead. Freshman outfielder Elijah Hurt pinch ran for Griffith after his big hit as junior infielder Clay Russin strolled to the plate, but before his at-bat began, an attempted pick off went awry and enabled Hurt to reach second base. Russin ended up moving Hurt over to third with a grounder.
One out was recorded, and junior infielder Chris Barr now had an opportunity to keep the inning going. He drew a walk to put runners on the corners for senior outfielder Ian Dempsey. Head Coach Jeremy Schmidt had a little trick up his sleeve as he gave Dempsey the push bunt sign to bring home Hurt. And it worked to perfection as he crossed the plate in unison with Dempsey being thrown out. The dugout was electric the entire night from banging on the buckets with stakes to banging bats on the rack to just pure vocals as their presence could be heard anywhere on the field. However, the third inning was not quite done yet as after Dempsey advanced Barr to second, senior outfielder Carter Knight roped another single to center field. Barr ended up scoring on the play to extend Riverview’s lead to three runs over Sickles (Citrus Park). As a result, the third inning was a huge momentum boost for the Rams in which they were able to feed off that energy till the end of the game, despite not scoring any
more runs. This was all the offense Riverview needed as three innings later, the score was still 4-1 with three more outs left to secure the victory.
However, the last three outs seem to always be the hardest ones to get as to start the top of the seventh inning, Ligon walked the first batter and then hit the next batter. The tying run was now at the plate and that’s when Coach Schmidt pulled the plug on Ligon’s outing. He gave the ball to Smalley in order to earn the save for Ligon, but Smalley couldn’t get off on the right foot either. Two walks in a row forced home the second run of the game for Sickles (Citrus Park). Fortunately, he struck out the next batter to finally record the first out of the inning. Bases were still loaded with one out when a chopper was hit to Knight at third as he tapped third base on a force play to acquire the second out but not without another run scoring to cut the deficit to one run. Just one more out was needed to take home the win as on a 1-2 pitch, Smalley froze the hitter with a curveball on the inside corner and the umpire signaled strike three.
The Rams had officially made history and broke their 29-year curse by winning a regional playoff game.