The River Ridge baseball team didn’t win a state title, nor did it claim the Region 7AAAA championship. The Knights beat just one county opponent — Woodstock — despite facing each of the other Cherokee County teams once. They finished with an overall record of 16-11, which, while it’s above .500, isn’t very noteworthy. Still, River Ridge accomplished quite a bit under coach Scott Bradley.
After graduating four key players in 2013, the Knights took some time to make adjustments early in the season. Using as many as four pitchers in a seveninning game at the start of the season, Bradley saw what his players were capable of.
“I felt like we had a lot more group effort this year,” Bradley said. “That isn’t to say players on previous teams didn’t give 100-percent effort, but this year, we couldn’t be carried.”
In 2013, Jackson Weeg was named the Cherokee Tribune Pitcher of the Year after a dominating season. During many of his outings, the Knights didn’t have to get many runs across the plate as Weeg would hold opposing bats at bay.
This year, Sloan Parker, with a 5-2 record in 12 games, was the closest thing River Ridge had to an ace. While they had a handful of players who hit for a high average — such as Luke Berryhill, John Cable and Elijah Brague — power remained at a premium for the Knights.
Before the season was over, River Ridge put together a string in which it won 15 of 18 games, going from 1-6 to 16-9 in a matter of weeks. By discovering the best places to put his players on the field in order for the team to be successful, Bradley was able to put the Knights in the playoffs for the second straight season.
For that reason, Bradley is the 2014 Cherokee Tribune Baseball Coach of the Year.
“Everyone had to do their part for us to be successful,” Bradley said, “but we made headway. Last year, we won (nine) games. This year, we won 16.”
River Ridge was contending for its subregion title before ultimately finishing second to Cedartown.
The Knights then went on to win a best-of-three series with Dalton in order to qualify for the Class AAAA state playoffs, but they were dealt a challenging draw in the first round and were swept by Columbus.
“We were one win away from playing for the region title,” Bradley said. “We made it to the first round of the state playoffs again. One of our goals was to win one more game and make it to the second round of the state playoffs, maybe. We just want to continue to get better and better every day and I think that we were able to do that.”
River Ridge will return a solid group of players for the 2015 season. In addition to Berryhill, a catcher, and pitchers Parker, Brian Fisher, Travis Connelly, Andrew Hester and Bret Boatwright are also set to return. So, too, are Noah Fitzgerald, Dalton Martin, Chris Turner, Trey Daniel, Zach Wilken, Zach Cable and Parris Collins.
That doesn’t mean Bradley and company will have an easy road ahead. River Ridge is moving up to Class AAAAA, where it will play alongside Creekview and Sequoyah for the first time as region opponents.
Bradley said it will be a big jump, but the Knights are up for the challenge.
“I think, with the teams in our region, it will definitely be tougher as far as the region goes,” Bradley said. “I don’t know how much tougher the classification will be as a whole. Once we make into the state playoffs, in any classification, it’s hard to move on. I think Region 7AAAAA, with Creekview and Sequoyah and Rome and Cass, as a whole, is going to be a little bit tougher, and we are going to have to continue to get better to compete with those guys on a daily basis.”