Fun-loving Riverview on brink of finals
So “those kind” of games are fun, huh?
The Riverview baseball players say they enjoy the occasional slugfest, where the end result often comes down to the last team batting, where runs score like coins falling from a slot machine.
The Raiders say, jackpot.
“Lots of fun,” said senior center fielder Jason Anthony, who hit a team-best .582 during the regular season. “Having fun out there is what it's all about. You just can't give up in games like that.”
And the Raiders (14-5) would know. Not only have they been on the wrong end of a wild finish — they could only watch as Springdale's Adam Lock hit a walk-off grand slam to beat them 11-10 earlier in the season. But they felt the same rush of emotion Springdale did in the second round of the playoffs when they were the ones walking off with an erratically-pleasing win.
Of course, this team isn't going to show too much emotion. The Raiders don't seem to take themselves too seriously.
“I don't know, maybe we should call these guys ‘The Wild Bunch' or something,” Riverview coach Rich Griser said after Wednesday's 12-10 victory over Union in the WPIAL quarterfinals. The 11th-seeded Raiders rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh to down No. 14 Union, which erased an early 6-0 deficit.
“Union was a good-hitting team,” said Griser, who is in his 37th year overall and 14th at Riverview. He has led the team to the playoffs 11 times. “We got the ball up a lot, and they hit very well when the ball was up in the zone. We felt confident (in the seventh) with the top of our order coming up.”
Riverview will look to keep its bats warm when it plays No. 10 Carmichaels (13-2) in Monday night's WPIAL Class A semifinal at Washington & Jefferson College.
Carmichaels, which beat Springdale, 10-2, in the first round also knows how to keep the base paths moving. The Mikes clubbed defending champion and No. 2 seed Western Beaver, 17-8, in the quarterfinals. That game also was played at W&J.
Mikes senior shortstop Ty Cole is hitting .460 with 30 RBIs and eight doubles, and junior catcher Mike Blasinsky is batting .440 with 23 RBIs.
Carmichaels averages 9.1 runs, so big-inning baseball could be on tap again.
“I'm expecting another high-scoring game. Both teams seem like they can hit and put the ball in play,” Riverview senior catcher Jake Paradise said. “Those games are only fun if you win them. But they are the most exciting.”
W&J will be the future home field of Paradise, who has committed to play for the Presidents.
Riverview, which started 8-0 and overcame a midseason funk to take momentum into the playoffs, suddenly sits one win away from the WPIAL finals. It reached the Class AA semifinals in 2007. The Raiders made the Class A championship game in 2001, but they never have won a WPIAL baseball title. They won a PIAA championship in 1983.
The Raiders are strong on senior leadership, a common trait for contending teams. They have five senior captains: Nick DiBucci, Dom Conte, Zach Hanus, Paradise and Anthony.
“This is one of the best senior classes we've had at this school,” said junior designated hitter Tanner Bierly, who had the game-winning two-run double in the quarterfinals. “We want to win for them.”
Upstart No. 13 seed Sewickley Academy (9-5) and No. 1 California (18-0) will play in the other semifinal at 4:15 p.m. Monday at W&J.
Monday's game will be Riverview's third playoff game in seven days because of the WPIAL's schedule crunch, a product of this season's damp weather.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.