The improbable and unexpected happened Thursday in Upper Marlboro, Md. The Riverdale Baptist Crusaders baseball team won the 2019 Metro Independent School Athletic League (MISAL) baseball championship by defeating Southern Maryland Christian Academy 7-4.
It was a hard-fought game that exhibited a well-coached and disciplined Riverdale team with good pitching, excellent defense, smart base running and timely hitting. Playing at home in front of parents, school officials, students and friends, the team was jubilant when the final out was made to end the game.
Riverdale Baptist School, located in Prince George’s County, has for years fielded a nationally ranked baseball team, but this year due to coaching changes, graduations and transfers, the school was not expected to field a team.
Enter Aaron Graves, who was hired as the new baseball coach last summer. Graves brought a determination to field a team and implement a strategy of rebuilding the program while developing the character of the young men with an equal focus on athletic and academic excellence.
The team only had 10 players on the team: one junior, two sophomores, one ninth-grader and the rest seventh- and eighth-graders. The season started with some on and off-field challenges but the young team came together and finished with the unexpected championship trophy.
“Despite everything we as team faced, we never doubted God and trusted His process for us both on the baseball field and in life,” Graves said. “Now we are champions, no one can ever take that away from us.”
Looking forward, Graves said, “Recruiting for next year is ongoing and the goal is to build on our accomplishments from this year and to again exceed expectations.”