With one opportunity after another slipping through its grasp, Riverdale Baptist seemed on the brink of a devastating loss in Monday’s Maryland Private Schools Championship. The Crusaders failed to bring home a runner on third with no outs in the top of the sixth inning, then couldn’t finish a double play that preceded DeMatha’s three-run, two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth.
But when junior slugger Jose Rivera made perfect contact at the plate in the seventh, those missteps faded away as the ball soared ever farther.
“I didn’t realize the ball was going out of the park,” Rivera said. “I was jogging to second base, because if the ball hit the wall, we were going to be tied . . . we had to have a runner on second base.”
Rivera’s shot flew over the left-center field wall and brought home a pair of runners, capping a four-run rally for a 6-5 victory at Maryland’s Shipley Field.
The three-run blast was Rivera’s first home run of the season, and it couldn’t have come in a bigger moment.
Monday evening’s rally wasn’t the Crusaders’ only comeback on the day. They trailed Avalon 3-1 in the seventh inning of the morning semifinal before scoring three runs to keep their season alive.
“It was two of the grittiest character comebacks I’ve seen,” Riverdale Baptist Coach Ryan Terrill said. “It was a lot in one day.”
Junior Blake Johnson gave up one run in five innings for the Crusaders (35-3) in the final. Marcus Brown went the distance for DeMatha, which beat The Heights, 4-1, in its semifinal.
It was the second straight state baseball title for a Riverdale Baptist squad graduating 10 seniors this year and capped a season that included a 30-game winning streak and a National Association of Christian Athletes Division I championship.
“Our seniors that are graduating are going to have a ton to be proud of when they look back,” Terrill said. “I told our team . . . ‘What every coach wants is to be able to take himself out and just watch them compete,’ and these guys have done that all year.”