by Andrew Stark
Last season, the Rocky River High School baseball team won the first game it ever played: an emotional 5-4 decision over Gastonia Highland Tech.
But the Ravens did not win again all season. Other than losing a pair of contests by just two runs, they were out of contention for winning most every other game by the fifth inning.
This year, the Ravens have one victory in their first five games, having beaten Monroe Parkwood, 4-3, on March 7. But they have been in every contest, and the future looks bright for coach Shawn Schmitt’s program.
On March 13, for example, Rocky River lost to Butler, 5-2, but a base-running error stranded two men on base with one out in the sixth inning. The Ravens then loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning but could not capitalize to score more than one run.
“That one hurts,” Schmitt said after the Butler defeat. “We had more base runners than they did, we had more hits, but we couldn’t get the runners in. That half inning (in which Butler scored all five runs) killed us, and it has been the story all year.
“We are in it. The mind-set is there, (our players) have the ability, and they definitely have the talent.”
Last year, Schmitt said giving up five runs in a half inning would have led to more big innings for their opponents, but he added that his team has resolve. He’s noticed a number of differences this season.
“The biggest thing between this year and last is, with a year of growth, we are playing better defense,” Schmitt said. “The boys are stronger and hitting the ball better. We have gone on a couple scoring frenzies, (but) we need to put more of those runs together while continuing to play great defense. The wins will come. I am sure of that.”
Leading the way for the Ravens, who feature five players with at least a .300 batting average, are sophomores Devryn Galloway (.467 with five stolen bases) and Danny Dunning (.385).
With increased offensive production, better team defense and improved pitching behind starters Galloway, Ryan Schulte, Kyle Anderson and Dunning coming in relief, Schmitt thinks things are coming in place.
“We need a full seven innings,” Schmitt said. “If we can consistently do that, we can play with and beat anyone in the league. We just have to stay focused. We have the drive, we have the focus, and we are able to bounce back better. I’m definitely looking forward to coaching the rest of the season with these guys.”
The Ravens were scheduled to play a make-up game on March 15 at Harding before hosting South Mecklenburg on Friday, March 16.