Riverside Hangs on to Punch State Ticket


John Nolan
Virginia Scouting Director & Managing Editor

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A hot Tuesday night saw No. 18 Sherando travel to Riverside for a Region 4C semifinal. The Rams would take advantage of walks and an error to score four runs in the first en route to building a 5-0 lead that they would hang onto to win, 5-3, clinching a spot in the Region Championship and the State Tournament.

Both teams sent seniors to the mound to open the game, Riverside tabbing righty Gunner Canary for the start and Sherando countering with Hunter Entsminger (James Madison). In the top of the first, Canary gave up a leadoff single, but was able to strand the runner at third when Entsminger lined out to short to end the inning.

In the bottom half of the inning, Riverside got Sajon Belser (College of Charleston) and Carson Swank (Yale) on with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. John Heltebran flared a single in behind first base, driving in Belser, to open the scoring and give the Rams a 1-0 lead. A throwing error on a Nick Connolly sacrifice bunt allowed two more runs to score, and eventually Connolly scored on a wild pitch, giving Riverside a 4-0 lead after the first inning.

Canary worked another scoreless inning in the second. After batting around in the first, Belser led off again in the second for Riverside with a single to left and eventually stole second base. He came around to score the Rams' fifth run on another Heltebran RBI single. After two innings, Riverside had a 5-0 lead.

After neither team scored in the third inning, Sherando got its offense going in the top of the fourth when a pair of singles sandwiched around an error loaded the bases with no outs. The Warriors plated two runs on a groundout to first when the throw back home got away. Sherando tried a safety squeeze with the next batter, but Riverside was able to record the out at first and get the ball back home in time to prevent the run from scoring, preserving the Rams' 5-2 lead headed to the bottom of the fourth.

Entsminger continued to settle in and shut the Riverside offense down after the second inning, allowing just a single and a walk over the final four innings. Sherando continued to chip away at the Riverside lead, turning a leadoff walk into another run in the fifth. They got the tying run to the plate in sixth, but Canary got a ground ball to end the inning.

In the top of the seventh, Riverside brought in sophomore Wyatt Shenkman to close the game out, and he tossed a quick perfect inning to pick up the save and propel Riverside to the State Tournament with a final score of 5-3.

For Riverside, Canary got the win going 6 IP, 3 R, 3 H, 3 BB, and 3 K. Shenkman earned a save with 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K. Belser was 1-1 with 2 BBs and 2 SB. Heltebran was 2-3 with 2 RBIs.

For Sherando, Entsminger took the loss, going 6 IP, 5 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 2 HBP, and 5 K. Payne Bauer was 1-3 and Cameron Mintz was 0-2 with a BB and an RBI.

Riverside will advance to Thursday's Region championship against Kettle Run and locked up a berth in next week's Class 4 State Tournament.