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Topping the conference tourney, Riverside grabs first baseball title

The Riverside Rams won their first baseball championship May 26, defeating Warren County 6-3 in the Conference 28 tournament final.—Times-Mirror/Jason S. Rufner
When Sam Plank moved to new Riverside High School from nearby Stone Bridge - where he'd guided the Bulldogs to a slew of conference championships, plus the 2015 Virginia Group 5A state title - he did so with every intention of keeping the championships coming.

So far, it's going to plan. In just their second season as a baseball program, Plank and the Rams are hanging their first banner after Riverside (20-3) topped visiting Warren County 6-3 on May 26 in Lansdowne, earning the Group 3A Conference 28 tournament crown.

"When I met these guys before last year, I had a bunch of 120-pound freshmen who could barely bench the bar. I told 'em, I came here to win championships," Plank said. "These kids completely bought in, working hard every day. To win a championship in our second year, it's pretty special."

After blanking Manassas Park 4-0 and dismissing Brentsville 13-3, Riverside was forced to wait an extra day to face the Wildcats (15-6), as severe weather postponed the conference championship showdown.

When the skies brightened the next afternoon, senior right-hander Trey Campbell got the nod and took the mound. Campbell worked through the Warren County lineup twice, reaching the fifth inning with no runs allowed.

"I was able to locate my fastball pretty well early on," Campbell said. "My curve was working but it kind of dropped off, so my fastball got us where we needed to be tonight."

Meanwhile, his batterymate staked him and the Rams to an early lead when junior catcher Aidan Koferl smacked a solo homer beyond the left field fence.

"I was thinking opposite [field] because I've been pulling my head all year," said Koferl of his second-inning blast. "So I was trying to hit the ball the opposite way, it ended up being inside, and I pulled it."

Riverside extended its lead to 4-0 in the fourth. Nick Jones drilled a double to the right-center gap, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when speedy Sajon Belser beat out an infield single.

After another wild pitch brought in another run, Carson Swank lined a full-count fastball into centerfield to plate Belser to complete a three-run, three-hit, two-steal inning.

"What makes us dangerous is we put pressure on people," Plank assessed. "We got some guys who can flat-out run, and they know when to do it."

The Rams flashed their leather, too. In the Wildcats' half of the fourth, Riverside first baseman Robbie Ferreira showed a quick step in diving for a backhanded grab of a two-out liner that seemed destined for right field as an RBI single. Ferreira's effort kept the Rams in front.

Campbell labored through the fifth, surrendering an RBI single and leaving with the bases full and two outs. Junior lefty Wes Glass came on to walk the first batter he faced to let a run in, but then got a three-pitch strikeout to strand three.

In the home half of the fifth, Koferl came up clutch again. The big catcher turned on an inside fastball and socked it down the left-field line for a two-out RBI double and a 5-2 Riverside lead.

Sophomore right-hander David Setien relieved Glass with two on and no out in the sixth. After a bunt single filled the bases with Wildcats, Setien got a strikeout, a groundout and a strikeout to limit the rally to one run and leave another three on the basepaths.

"For a sophomore to be in that situation," said Plank of Setien, "and he's worked hard to prepare for that moment, waiting his chance. I tip my hat to him."

The Rams got that run right back when Belser showed off his speed again, managing to score from third on a shallow fly ball to right by executing a perfect head-first hook slide around the catcher's tag. Belser, a sophomore, got up from the home-plate dirt fist-pumping and shouting as teammates and fans cheered.

Setien finished the save, working around a single and a hit-by-pitch to strike out the side and grant the Rams a championship banner.

"This is unbelievable," said Campbell as teammates milled about, enjoying the aftermath of their first-ever championship. "Being a part of this at a second-year school, being a senior and being able to lead these guys, I couldn't ask for more."

Next up for the Rams is a home game May 30 to begin the 3A East Region tournament versus Hopewell.

"I told my coaches, if we can get over the hump," said Plank, referring to the Rams' earlier conference semifinal victory that granted them a regional berth, "I think we're going to roll."

Riverside 6, Warren County 3

-WP: Trey Campbell
-Save: David Setien
-HR: Aidan Koferl


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