Ranked the No. 2 high school baseball team in Maryland, behind Calvert Hall, a Baltimore High School, Riverdale Baptist recently scored three blowout victories against St. Anselm’s Abbey, Avalon, and five-point win over Eastern Tech May 8, leading up to the National Association of Christian Athletes National Tournament in Dayton, Tenn. from May 10-12.

The Riverdale Crusaders maintain their winning streak as they head to the NACA tournament. (Photo by Daniel Kucin)

With only one loss against Gilman earlier this month blemishing its record (25-1), Riverdale Baptist looks forward to making a run at a championship this season. “It is great to be a part of this team because we get to build comradery,” said Riverdale Baptist senior pitcher Blake Johnson. “It’s not all about winning to us; it’s about staying together and playing together as a team. When we had that one loss, we just didn’t have our best stuff that day. “I feel like we are better than any team out here; no team compares to us.”

Although one did come close. The Crusaders’ closest game of the season so far was a doubleheader matchup against St. Albans on April 29 as Riverdale was riding a six-game winning streak. In a tight and contested battle, the Crusaders won by the score of 2-0 behind an impressive performance of its pitcher Harold Cortijo. Cortijo pitched a complete game and notched 11 strikeouts as Riverdale cruised to victory in the first game of the doubleheader slate.

“It makes me feel real good,” said Cortijo after securing the win. “I was motivated thanks to my teammates, who were always there supporting me. To be honest, I felt real comfortable that I could do it.”

Riverdale Baptist then proceeded to play a signature game, winning one of the closest matches of the season defeating St. Albans 6-5. St. Albans rallied back to tie the game up in the sixth inning with the bases loaded for Johnson.

With the match tied at 5-5, and only one down, Johnson struck out the side on several payoff pitches to get out of a massive jam. “That was great, they had a great team, and it was hard to pitch to them,” said Johnson. “I had to work around that, and I just had to keep my head down and just fight through it. I always have to keep my head in the game, and I’m always ready to go.”

During the following inning, Ben Blackwell, Riverdale senior infielder, drove scored the final run of the contest as the Crusaders survived a late offensive surge by St. Albans.

Seth White got the start for Riverdale Baptist and performed admirably while pitching six and two-thirds innings until he lost some juice out of his throws and gave up four runs before being pulled.

“I told our guys that we gotta learn how to win these games too,” said Riverdale Baptist Head Coach Ryan Terrill. “That is our next step in growth by finding ways to win close games.”

Nevertheless, Riverdale Baptist had the hot start and struck first when Blackwell drove in the first run of the contest with no outs.

The Crusaders couldn’t manage to muster any more offense though, and scoring wouldn’t resume until the sixth inning when St. Albans erupted offensively. Austin Burgen drove in the first run of the game for St. Albans on a line drive in the gap, followed by a double to center field by Ethan Roth putting the score at 4-2.

Then the Bulldogs scored two more runs highlighted by Nick Cicero who hit a standup double that drove in two to tie up the game four all. Devin Mattingly came in to finish the inning with a strikeout for the Crusaders.

Aided by a little help from a gust of wind, Riverdale Baptist senior outfielder Justin Oakley hit a high fly ball to the left field that just dropped past the fence to up the Crusaders’ score by one to 5-4. “All day I felt like the wind had knocked down a few that we could typically knock out,” said Terrill. “He is a big strong kid, and when he hit it I was looking up hoping the wind would carry it just enough, but it was a big time hit for our team.”

Despite St. Albans comeback, Riverdale Baptist reigned supreme. The school currently has a national rank of 102.