The Rocky River baseball team has been, well, rocky as the Ravens have stumbled in arguably the state’s toughest and most demanding baseball conference in the team’s first three seasons of existence.
The Southwestern 4A annually grooms players to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft and has produced some early-round picks in the last few years including Providence’s Brett Austin (first round pick, 2011), Ty Buttrey (fourth round, 2012), Richie Shaffer (21st overall pick, 2013) and Ardrey Kell’s Alex Wood (second round, 2012), among others.
With that kind of elite-level competition, including the droves of players who sign each year to play college baseball, it’s understandable why a new school would struggle – and the Ravens have, going 8-63 in three seasons and 0-42 in conference play.
While the team has been inconsistent, there have been a few bright spots. But no star has shone brighter than four-year starter Devryn Galloway, who has pitched, played center field and shortstop for the Ravens.
In a talent-laden conference, the senior has a chance to do something very few players accomplish – making three all-league teams after being named all-Southwestern 4A as a freshman in 2011 and a junior last year, when he led the team with a .339 batting average and 21 hits, 19 stolen bases, 10 runs scored, five doubles and added nine RBIs.
Ravens coach Shawn Schmitt, who is in his fourth season, said such an honor would fit the Ravens’ star well.
“Devryn is a special player that has a great determination and drive in every sport he has ever been in,” Schmitt said. “He always pushes to do the very best he can. Over his last three years with my squad, he has emerged as a leader and taken the role as he now enters his senior year.”
Galloway has always been a terror on the base paths, as he’s stolen 48 bases in 53 attempts in his career. But he’s evolved in recent seasons from a speedy leadoff man to a middle-of-the-lineup run producer and last year became one of the city’s best and most complete defensive outfielders, as well.
“He’s really worked on all aspects of his game and (has) fine-tuned every skill,” Schmitt said. “He’s become a very dominant hitter who not only hits for average, but also hits for power – which is surprising as usually you get one or the other. His knowledge on the bases is unsurpassed. He has great awareness and speed (and) I can see him eclipsing any stolen base record that had existed this year.”
Now, for his senior season, Galloway is hoping the Ravens can duplicate his winning ways.
“I’m looking forward to the leadership that comes with being a four-year varsity player,” Galloway said. “The guys actually are (receptive) and are listening to what we say. The big thing is to just have fun, it’s my last year playing high school baseball and I want to make it count.”
Judging from what he’s already done in his athletic career and in the Rocky River hallways, Galloway will certainly have an impact on this season.
On the football field he’s an all-Southwestern 4A wide receiver who caught 31 passes for 395 yards, but he’s even more of a star off the sports fields.
Galloway’s sister, Alayna, is a special needs student at Rocky River. Most every day, Galloway, one of Rocky River’s all-time most decorated athletes, takes his lunch to eat with Alayna and some of the other special needs kids.
“It’s an everyday thing, going to lunch with them and making sure they’re a part of the school,” Galloway said. “We’re all people, so that’s what I try to do, make them feel like they’re people and a part of our community.”
But Galloway has taken his devotion to his sister and other special needs children a step further as he’s the president of Project Unify and was instrumental in getting the organization – whose goal is to foster dignity, respect and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities – up and running.
“Devryn is a great friend to the students in the (exceptional child) self-contained classes,” said Ann Lake, an EC teacher and the faculty advisor to Project Unify. “He goes out of his way to speak to and check on not only his sister, but all of the students. He’s a leader and role model to other regular education students (and encourages them) to get to know the students with disabilities.”
Galloway said wherever he attends college – most likely where he decides to accept a baseball scholarship – he’ll either continue his advocacy or begin a similar chapter of Project Unify.
But before Galloway moves onto that phase of his life, he’s putting all of his efforts into turning around the Ravens’ fortunes on the baseball diamond.
“I just want to have a winning season this year,” he said. “Someone said that they wanted to win 10 games, but I said let’s not worry about the number, let’s just have a winning record and go from there.”
With Galloway leading the way, the Ravens will have their best chance yet at accomplishing just that. He’ll be joined by 2012 all-Southwestern 4A conference pick and Wingate University commit Danny Dunning who, like Galloway, is a four-year starter. Joining them are DeShawn Outing, who will add speed to the top of the lineup, returning starter Smith Brundage and returnees Bobby Mahlan and Maleek Jackson who will be joined by a host of newcomers.
Add that to the fact the Ravens will be in the new-look Southwestern 4A, which lost perennial powers Ardrey Kell, Providence and defending Class 4A champion South Meck to realignment, and it’s clear to see that this could be the year of the Ravens.
“That confidence is definitely there considering our conference this year,” Galloway said. “This year we can truly say it’s our team. Everyone has bought into what we’re trying to do, we have some kids out there who are working hard everyday – even in the cold weather, so it’s starting to seem like it means something to people.”
But to Galloway, who possesses a smile, heart and work ethic which far exceed his on-field prowess, this season will be the one that finally puts his baseball team where he feels it should be – a team capable of not only winning games, but advancing in the playoffs.
“We’ve struggled and it’s been difficult at times,” Galloway said. “But this year everyone that’s coming back has an approach at the plate and it should be better in terms of run production and we should be a much better team.”
Galloway added that he hopes this season is the year Rocky River takes the next step as they already have in football and basketball. And when he helps this team get there, he doesn’t want it to be just a flash in the pan.
“People talk about us being better and having a better record and I think we will be,” he said. “But I want to win a playoff game. Everyone can get to the playoffs, but that doesn’t do it for me. I want to win a game and then see if we can keep it
With Galloway as the Ravens’ senior leader, captain and potential three-time Southwestern 4A selection, Schmitt said he’ll roll the dice with how good this team can be because of the fact he knows it can only be as good as Galloway
“He has pushed to improve his game and is now putting his teammates in the same situation,” Schmitt said. “Devryn is an asset to his teammates as he knows every position and what it requires to play them. He has played nearly every position on the field over the last three years and has really developed into quite the middle infielder.
“I cannot say enough good things about Devryn and wish him all the best as he moves beyond the game at the high school level. There’s literally nothing in the game that he cannot do.”