— Bryce Harper (@Bharper3407) July 6, 2013
Gavin Rupp would have loved a night like the one April 22 at Briar Woods High School.
He would have loved to have been playing alongside many of his closest friends, playing at his favorite position of shortstop donned from head to toe in a No. 15 Falcons uniform. He would have certainly loved the final result, too.
But Gavin may have loved the night most of all for "Paying it Forward," a simple motto that might best describe how he chose to live his life.
On the baseball diamond, Briar Woods defeated Stone Bridge, 6-3, but beyond any score, this night was always going to belong to Gavin and the memory he continues to carry.
Gavin, a standout baseball player and Ashburn native who died in July 2013 at the age of 13 after a nearly three-year battle with brain cancer, was honored in a special ceremony held before the game.
Gavin's parents, Chris and Sandy, and his younger siblings, Ian and Abby, were all recognized on the field, as the public address announcer told Gavin's story for the large crowd on hand.
Formally known as "Batter Up for Rupp," the game's special celebration was put on by iPromise15, a foundation created by the Rupp family to raise awareness and advocacy for pediatric cancer research and funding in Gavin's memory. Last year, iPromise15 awarded scholarships to two Loudoun County high school students who want to work in pediatric medicine.
The Dulles Little League presented a check in the amount of $4,600 to the Rupps to go toward this year's scholarship funding near the end of the pregame ceremony.
Gavin's brother Ian threw out the first pitch, a strike caught by Falcons sophomore catcher George Rosales, a former teammate and classmate of Gavin's and one of his closest friends.
"He would have loved it. He would have loved it," Rosales said, recapping the night. "Everybody was here for him, and I just thought it was awesome. He definitely would have loved it."
Gavin, a big fan of Ohio State University, was a proponent of "paying it forward," an expression popularized by legendary Buckeyes football coach Woody Hayes that asks to take one person's kindness and distribute it to others. When the Rupps started their foundation in the summer of 2014, "paying it forward" served as the overarching inspiration behind it.
"For whatever reason, it just stuck," Chris Rupp said. "And so that's what we came up with. And so we just talked about it and said, 'How many people can you help today just in life?' Whatever you do, how am I helping somebody tomorrow?"
In the game itself, a matchup featuring two of the area's top teams, Briar Woods (11-2) had to climb out of an early deficit to knock off visiting Stone Bridge (10-5), who won the VHSL Group 5A state championship a year ago.
After falling behind 2-0 in the top of the first inning, the Falcons quickly tied it up in the home half of the first on back-to-back RBI doubles from seniors Nathan Davis and Jacob Hand.
Briar Woods took a 4-2 lead three innings later, when seniors Zach Covert and Gino Ventrice each drove in one run apiece.
Covert, a second baseman, went 2-for-3 with two triples and two RBIs. He had the second of his two run-producing hits in the bottom of the sixth to gives the Falcons some insurance after the Bulldogs cut it to 4-3 in the inning's top half.
Senior lefty Caleb Barnes (3-0) picked up the win after in six innings of work. Junior Michael Ludowig recorded his fifth save of the season in the seventh.
Afterward, Gavin remained a central focus.
"Gavin really puts in perspective that you don't take an at-bat for granted, you don't take a game for granted, you don't even take a day for granted," Briar Woods coach Jason Miller said. "They honored his memory tonight big time, so I'm real proud of my boys."
Miller originally came up with the idea to host a night to honor Gavin and brought it to the team's parents to help organize it. The Stone Bridge game was chosen because of Gavin's connection as a former teammate and friend with many players at both schools.
"Batter Up for Rupp" was a two-game series, with the junior varsity game between the two Ashburn schools at Stone Bridge a day earlier serving as the first game.
Shane Gallahan, a sophomore on Stone Bridge's JV team, was also one of Gavin's former teammates and, along with Rosales, one of his best friends. He still remembers Gavin's positive spirit well, even as his diagnosis grew bleak.
"He never put his head down. He just kept going," Gallahan said. "He made every baseball game, every practice. From the moment that it happened, he helped make the community a better place. It really makes you want to be a better person and pay it forward for him. Because he might not be able to fight, but we can always fight for him."
Asked how he wanted his son to be remembered, an emotional Chris Rupp paused for a few moments, trying to find the right words.
"I want his legacy to be what makes people smile and say that I'm a better person because I knew Gavin," Chris Rupp said.
"I think all of us want that, but I think as a father, that's what I want. I want Gavin to be remembered as a good kid and that because of knowing Gavin, people have decided to help other people because he encouraged them or inspired them. That's what I would say that I would want his legacy to be."
For more information about Gavin or to make a donation, visit www.iPromise15.org.
|Gavin Rupp's brother Ian throws out the first pitch to Briar Woods sophomore catcher George Rosales, a former teammate and classmate of Gavin.--Photo Courtesy/Don Ventrice|
|Briar Woods senior Gino Ventrice takes his lead off second base with Stone Bridge senior shortstop John Callahan anticipating the next pitch in a Conference 14 baseball game.--Photo Courtesy/Don Ventrice|
Briar Woods 6, Stone Bridge 3
SB - Dylan Beck doubled to left field. John Callahan scored. (1-0)
SB - Eli Quiceno grounded into fielder's choice. Beck scored. (2-0)
BW - Nathan Davis doubled to center field. Michael Ludowig scored. (2-1)
BW - Jacob Hand doubled to left field. Caleb Barnes scored. (2-2)
BW - Zach Covert tripled to right field. Matt Lord scored. (3-2)
BW - Gino Ventrice singled to left field. Covert scored. (4-2)
SB - Callahan grounded into fielder's choice. Jonathan Hough scored. (4-3)
BW - Covert tripled to left field. Kevin Larco scored. (5-3)
BW - Ventrice reached on error on throw to first base. Covert scored. (6-3)
Gino Ventrice: 2-4, RBI
Jake Kleifges: 0-4
Michael Ludowig: 2-3, run
Caleb Barnes: 0-3, run
Nathan Davis: 1-3, RBI, 2B
Jacob Hand: 1-3, RBI, 2B
Matt Lord: 1-3, run
George Rosales: 1-2
Kevin Larco: run
Zach Covert: 2-3, 2 RBIs, 2 runs, 2 3Bs
Caleb Barnes (W): 6.0 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 Ks, 3 BBs (89 pitches thrown)
Michael Ludowig (Save): 1.0 IP, K
John Callahan: 0-3, RBI, run, HBP
Dylan Beck: 2-4, RBI, run, 2B
Dave Mocabee: 0-4
Josh Greenberg: 1-3, BB
Eli Quiceno: 0-3, RBI, BB
Brett Kreyer: 1-4
Jonathan Hough: 1-3, run
Matt Molthen: 0-2
Paul Moore: 0-1
Zach Spahr: 2-2, BB, 2B
Brett Kreyer (L): 5.2 IP, 10 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 3 Ks (94 pitches thrown)
Gary Fuller: 0.1 IP, K