In a battle of regular season champions, the Ravenwood Raptors baseball team (19-12, 8-4 District 12-4A) brought the lumber and the arms as they won in convincing fashion 11-3 on the road against the Centennial Cougars (15-10, 10-2 District 11-4A) on Friday night.
“It is a good preview,” said Ravenwood head coach Nico Gregoli. “I am sure both of these teams feel good about themselves, coming off of clinching the night before. Glad our guys came out here and did what they did. We played really good defense tonight.”
“We did not have much of a letdown,” said Centennial head coach Rob Baughman. “The way they swing the bats is pretty impressive. We were not able to match it, but credit to them, they hit the ball well.”
“It is a big statement game,” said Ravenwood senior Nic Raum. “I am sure we will see this team again later.”
In the top of the first inning, Centennial starter Gavin Johnsen retired the side in order with two flyouts and a groundout as Ravenwood was held scoreless in the frame.
Ravenwood senior starter Joe King went three up and three down in the bottom of the first drawing two groundouts and a strikeout 0-0.
The Raptors got on the board in the top of the second with a solo home run by senior Blake Bevis 1-0.
“Blake has been a steady influence in the middle of our lineup,” said Gregoli.
Joe King stopped a Centennial rally in the bottom of the second, leaving two runners on base and striking out the next two batters in the Cougars lineup. Ravenwood held on to the lead 1-0.
The Raptors added two more runs in the top of the third on a throwing error and a sac fly by junior JP Prince to stretch their advantage to 3-0.
In the bottom of the third, King continued to deal, forcing two groundouts to second and a strikeout to keep the Raptors edge 3-0.
The Raptors offense continued to surge as Raum tallied the first of two homeruns on the night, extending Ravenwood’s lead to 5-0 in the top of the fourth.
In the bottom of the fourth, Centennial’s offense continued to struggle with two groundouts and a pop out. The score stayed at 5-0 Ravenwood.
Centennial's Johnsen retired the side in order in the top of the fifth on three flyouts keeping the game at 5-0.
The Cougars rallied in the bottom of the fifth, cutting the deficit to 5-3. Centennial scored on a wild pitch and two RBI singles by senior Cannon Plowman and junior Malaki Moore.
“Both of them have been really good all year,” said Baughman. “Cannon has started the last couple of years for us and is just a winner. Malaki, coming off the basketball season, is a competitor and it shows.”
The Raptors were firing on all cylinders in the top of the sixth as Raum continued to supply the power, notching his second homer of the game to extend the Ravenwood advantage to 7-3.
“He is just a guy that has never gotten away from what he has wanted to do all season,” said Gregoli. “He struggled to find his groove early on, just stuck with it and grinded it out.”
“I just feel like the game slowed down for me,” said Raum. “I had good vision tonight, saw it come in, and got my barrel on it.”
The Raptors retired the side in order in the bottom of the sixth as Ravenwood senior reliever Jack Wilson forced two groundouts and recorded a strikeout to keep the score at 7-3.
Ravenwood continued their scoring party in the top of the seventh, accumulating four runs on three RBI singles by seniors Andrew Dudas, Thomas Cooper, and Nic Raum to increase their margin to 11-3.
The Raptors junior reliever Ryan Rhea went three up and three down forcing two groundouts and recording a strikeout to seal the victory for Ravenwood 11-3.
Ravenwood’s pitching staff held the Cougars to three runs the whole game.
“It is really good to see those guys step up, especially against a really good Centennial team,” said Gregoli. “There were a lot of fastball strikes. We could get to the off-speed pitches when we wanted to, because we were controlling the count. Having those guys take charge like they did is going to help us out moving forward.”
“They know they have a good defense behind them,” said Raum. “They know they just have to throw strikes, and we won’t make errors for them.”
This marks the second consecutive game that the Raptors have tallied 11 runs of offense.
“We made a couple of changes to where guys are hitting in the lineup,” said Gregoli. “We inserted a couple of new guys that gave us a spark. The biggest thing is we just have the ability to do a lot more things. We can run now, bunt, hit-and-run, and we can hit some home runs, like we did tonight. We keep defending the plate and not punching out.”
Centennial will play MBA on the road tomorrow and then Riverdale Monday.
“I don’t know how the kids do it day in and day out,” said Baughman. “I guess because they are teenagers and resilient no matter how many hours of sleep, because it is killing me. It is nice to play these games right now, because the team is going to be a little bit looser. Some of the pressure is off of them a little bit and they will have a few days to be able to get back in the groove of things.”
Ravenwood will host Overton on Monday in their regular season finale.
“We want to see another strong effort, so we can keep this thing rolling into the district tournament,” said Gregoli. “Overton has been a really good club that has played a lot of teams hard, so we know we are going to have a fight on our hands Monday.”