With seven seniors in its starting lineup, the Riverbend baseball team has won 10 of 11 games and made coach Stephen Morin’s job an easy one so far.
“This team has pretty much played together since they were freshmen,” said Morin after watching the Bears pound visiting North Stafford 10–1 on Thursday. “They’re competing to get better every day. All I really do is maintain them.”
Maintaining against the Wolverines was facilitated by the two-hit pitching of RJ Vanvickle and Cody Forster. Morin also got a big lift from his offense, which erupted for 13 hits, including a two-run homer by Forster.
“The top of our lineup is really swinging it,” said Morin. “When we get our leadoff guy going, it’s contagious.”
Forster, the Bears’ leadoff hitter, drove a fastball from Lance Robinson over the left field fence in the bottom of the fifth to put Riverbend in front, 9–1. It was his first home run of the season.
“The pitch was low and inside, and I saw it really well,” said Forster, who pitched the final three innings and kept North Stafford off the scoreboard.
Forster closed out the win after Vanvickle limited the Wolverines to one hit and a run that came on a sacrifice fly by their starting pitcher, Grayson Sims.
Sims’ RBI cut Riverbend’s lead to 4–1 in the third, but that was the extent of North Stafford’s run production. The Wolverines stranded seven base runners in the contest.
“It wasn’t about hitting for us,” said North Stafford coach Jim Labrusciano. “It all starts with pitching, and that didn’t show up for us tonight. And Riverbend has a bunch of seniors who have been through some tough games.”
Those seniors — and a couple of their underclassmen — were major factors in the Bears’ success on Thursday.
Besides Forster’s big night at the plate, third basemen Jon James collected three hits and drove in a run. Center fielder Tyler Tarrh and second baseman Ricky Martino added two hits apiece.
Tarrh, a transfer from Caroline and a hitting standout all season, also drove in three runs.
“Playing here is great,” said Tarrh. “It’s a great school and a great program. “Not many teams can say they’re 10–1 right now, but we still have a lot of potential. We have to buckle down in practice and keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
It didn’t take long for the Bears to get their offense in gear against the Wolverines and set the tone early.
In the bottom of the first, they scored three runs on four hits off Sims. Forster singled up the middle and scored on a line drive by Jason McDonough. After Anthony Correa doubled to center, Tarrh singled to bring in two more runs.
North Stafford (4–10), which had won three straight before Thursday’s game, looked like it was ready to make some noise in the top of the second.
After Sims singled, the Wolverines loaded the bases on a walk and a hit batsman. But Vanvickle silenced the threat by getting Cody English on a groundout to short.
“We have only one senior, but we have a talented team,” said Labrusciano. “We’ve been telling them that, but you have to show it when you get between the lines.”
The Bears kept padding their lead in the middle innings with timely hitting.
After scoring another run in the second, they increased the margin to 6–1 in the third with four more hits. Tarrh’s run-producing triple to deep center was the big blow.
In the fifth, they broke things open with three more tallies. Forster’s two-run blast to left and James’ third hit of the game put them in front 9–1 and helped seal their nonconference victory.
Morin and his players realize that their 10–1 start does not guarantee anything, and that there is still room for improvement, especially with the stretch drive of their Conference 4 schedule heating up next week.
“One game at a time, that’s how we’ve been approaching it,” said Morin. “We’re not looking ahead at all. We don’t really start our conference until next Friday. We’re gearing up, just trying to peak by the time we get there.”
Forster, who has been on the varsity squad for three years, believes this team has a chance to do something special.
“We’re never satisfied,” said the Bears’ closer. “You can always do something better. We’ve got the talent to go really far this year if we do that.
Riverbend returns to the diamond next Tuesday, when it hosts Colonial Forge in a game that won’t count in the Conference 4 standings. After hosting Mountain View on Thursday, the Bears open conference play at home against Gar-Field on Friday.
North Stafford visits Brooke Point on Tuesday and then entertains Potomac on Friday in Conference 15 action.