CR baseball team has something to prove

CR baseball coach Jeff Gravatt. Delaware State News file photo

CAMDEN — The thing was, Ryan Rigby didn’t even hurt his right elbow throwing a baseball.

The Caesar Rodney High athlete suffered the injury while he was wrestling.

But surgery is surgery and the Riders’ junior just tried to take the setback in stride.

“It was better now than later,” said Rigby, who underwent Tommy John surgery in January 2018. “ But now I’m like a year behind. I didn’t get to do anything last year.

“It’s kind of like I’ve got to push harder because I know the other people have been playing. I’ve just been sitting on the sidelines.”

As happy as Rigby is to be back playing for CR’s baseball team, the Riders are happy to have him.

CR graduated nine seniors from a squad that went 10-7 last spring and reached the DIAA state tournament for the first time since 2014.

Still, Rigby’s return is just one reason the Riders are feeling optimistic about this season, which they open on Friday with a 4:15 p.m. game at Delmar. CR’s players are also feeling pretty good after spending three days playing scrimmages in Myrtle Beach, S.C. last week.

The trip, which was paid for through fund-raising and alumni donations, gave the Riders not only a chance to get in some live action but also to bring the team together.

“It was awesome,” said senior infielder Jackson Rall. “It was a great team-bonding experience. And it was good seeing some out-of-state competition. I feel like we’ve got a good group of guys who are gelling pretty good.”

“The main mission of the trip was team bonding,” said third-year coach Jeffrey Gravatt. “That happened. It was not a vacation. We had a nine-hour car-ride down and then got out and played a night game at 8:30. … We had three games in a 15-hour time span.

“We came back much tighter as a team. We definitely made memories for the kids that are going to last a lifetime. … But, at the end of the day, we’ve got to produce some wins. The purpose was to go down there and get better and put a winning product on the field.”
CR does have some older players age-wise, with eight seniors and 11 juniors on the roster.

Rall was a second-team All-Henlopen North selection last season. Junior Brandon Hatch (3B/P), senior Mason Brewer (C) and senior Trey Jones (OF) — who returned from an injury late last season — are all returning starters.

Then there’s Rigby, who was an up-and-coming player as a freshman shortstop/pitcher before missing last season. The youngster, who was considered CR’s top pitcher in 2017, has already verbally committed to Delaware.

“He can play anywhere and he’s hitting the ball like crazy,” Rall said about Rigby.

“It feels really good,” Rigby said about his elbow. “We went down to Myrtle and I had a little bit of tightness because I hadn’t played four games straight in two days (in a while). But when I got out here, it’s been feeling fine.”

A year ago, the Riders started out 10-2 only to lose their last five games of the season. While they reached double digits in scoring eight times in those first 12 games, they averaged only four runs a contest in that five-game skid.

Gravatt said he wasn’t overly concerned about the way CR finished the year.

“You’ve got to look at the whole season for what it was,” he said. “There weren’t very many similarities between the games that we lost. … Later in the year, things didn’t go our way but I think the guys stuck together and we still played well and were competitive all the way through.”

Rall, though, said the way last year ended left CR’s returning players pretty motivated. The Riders fell to Middletown, 10-3, in the state tourney.

“I feel like last year we didn’t go 100 percent in practice like we should have — and like we did at the beginning of the year when we were doing well,” said Rall. “We have a chip on our shoulder. … I feel like we have so much more potential — so much more to show than what actually happened (last season).”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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