The Varsity Baseball team hosted two of the three games in the Region 6-AAAAA series vs. Grady. Over the three games the week of March 20th, the teams played 19 innings; the Raiders allowed only three runs and swept the series. The Grady series marked the exact mid-point of Region competition, too. With the winning record vs. Grady, the Raiders have won all four region series thus far and have Banneker, Lithia Springs, and Decatur remaining on the season.
Game 1, Monday, March 20 at Riverwood
In game one, Coach Santoro sent Sophomore Brett Thomas to the hill. Thomas was nasty again this game as the Knights managed only one hit and no runs. Only three batters advanced as far as second base; the Knights could not mount an attack during any inning of Thomas' dominant complete game.
Offensively, the Raiders continued to hit, but could not put together the kind of explosive string of hits that has characterized most of their recent games. Nevertheless, the Raiders got on the board early when Brandon Moore, who leads the team in most offensive categories, scored after being hit by a pitch, stole second, and advanced home on two passed balls. In the next three innings, Grady scattered six singles by Dawson Vainer, Brandon Moore, Joseph Tobia, Brian Smith and Connor Sewell and kept the game close. At the end of four innings, the Raiders only led 1-0.
The Raiders broke out of the gate fast in the fifth inning when Moore led off with a double. Tobia traded places with Moore with a double of his own and scored on a grounder by Patrick Hope. Then John Beckley reached after being hit by a pitch and scored on Vainer's second single of the night. The last run of the game came in the bottom of the sixth when Arthur Burrell walked, stole a base, and scored on Tobia's fielder's choice. Game one final score: Raiders 5; Knights 0
Game Two, Wednesday, March 22 at Crim
Grady hosted game two at Crim High School, their off-campus home field, and their smart starter made the Raiders wait until the third inning to start plating runs. In the top of the third, senior leftfielder Brandon Moore led off with his second single of the game. A single by Joseph Tobia, a Patrick Hope walk, and another hit-by-pitch of John Beckley (who seems destined to set a painful record for being struck by pitches this year) kept the bases full. After a walk to Erick Castro, a ripped double by Dawson Vainer, and an Arthur Burrell single, the Raiders exited the top of the third leading 5-0.
In the top of the sixth, Burrell scored on Tobia's second single of the game. The Raiders stretched the lead to 10 in the top of the seventh when Brett Thomas singled and scored; Erick Castro was hit by a pitch and scored; Dawson Vainer doubled and scored, and Connor Sewell singled and scored.
While the offense was rampaging, starting pitcher Coleman Flom was simply shutting down Grady's lineup. Through six innings, Flom flummoxed the Knights giving up only one run on four scattered hits while striking out seven. Ben Miller relieved Flom in the seventh; Miller made quick work, striking out the side. Game two final score: Raiders 10; Knights 1
Game Three, Friday, March 24 at Riverwood
It was Legacy Night at the sparkling new ballpark and a festive atmosphere prevailed. Door prizes, Raider Swag, and fierce corn hole competitions kept things lively. A fresh seafood boil, sub sandwiches, and punch enhanced the concession stand.
Attendance was big and noisy with many alumni returning with their kids in tow. Long-time Coaches Mike Santoro and Desmond Atwell had to call for more chapstick due to all the babies they were kissing. The Ridgeview Panther baseball team joined Varsity team on the field for the National Anthem. To kick off the festivities, Coach Santoro was recognized for his 300th victory. Santoro threw out the first pitch to former Raider Catcher Jim Glueckert; Glueckert's assistants were his two toddlers wielding plastic bats. Santoro dialed up some off speed junk which caught the corner of the plate for a strike, of course. The joy, the mood, the atmosphere, and the nostalgia was pure, Riverwood-style Americana -- Perfection.
Oh yeah. There was also a baseball game.
Senior Pitcher Mikey O'Connell started game three knowing that at least part of his job was to keep the good mood going in front of the largest crowd of the season. O'Connell did not disappoint; he put on a dazzling show of vapor-trail fastballs followed by breaking balls that fell off the table. O'Connell overpowered the Grady lineup for three full innings during which he struck out seven while scattering only two hits.
Brandon Moore continued his remarkable table-setting role with another lead off hit in the first inning. His hit was followed by line drives from both centerfielder Arthur Burrell and first baseman Patrick Hope. After a fielder's choice on John Beckley's grounder and a base on balls to Brett Thomas, second baseman Dawson Vainer cleared the bases with a drive into the right field gap which he turned into a triple. Vainer scored on the next pitch when catcher Erick Castro tattooed a grounder to third. When the dust settled, the Raiders led 4-0.
The offense detonated again in the third inning when the Raiders sent 14 batters to the plate. The Knights sent out several pitchers who labored to get outs. Burrell, Vainer, and shortstop Connor Sewell all singled in the inning; however, much of the damage to Grady was self-inflicted. The Knights walked five, third baseman Brian Smith was hit by a pitch, and Grady committed two errors.
In the top of the fourth, after O'Connell got the first batter to line-out to Christopher Bauguss in right field and got the third batter to hit into a difficult 5-4 fielder's choice (Brian Smith to Bobby Hope), a couple of Knights reached base and advanced into scoring position. Coach Santoro called Jordan McCord from the bullpen. Grady, desperate to extend the game, surprised the Raiders with a successful steal of home on McCord's first pitch. They scored a second time on a passed ball. McCord settled down, doused the fire with his curve ball, and ended the inning without any further damage.
In the Raiders' half of the fourth, Brian Smith walked and scored on a double by Griffin Brown. Brown's towering fly ball fell in no-man's land between short, second, and center field. At the end of four innings, the Raiders led 13-2.
In the final frame, McCord returned and puzzled the heart of Grady's order. McCord gave up a single amid two strikeouts and a hard ground ball to Patrick Hope at first. Game three final score: Raiders 13; Knights 2
Following a night of celebration and fellowship, the Raiders return to Raider Park for a non-region contest against Holy Innocents' on Saturday, March 25. Game time is 1pm. Region play resumes Monday, March 27th with a three game series vs. Banneker (view schedule)