GREENBELT – Riverdale Baptist catcher Ian Clements was in a sketchy predicament, but he wasn’t worried about the outcome. No, it was his moment to shine. Knoxville Christian blasted a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning of the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) Division I National Championship to tie the […]
GREENBELT – Riverdale Baptist catcher Ian Clements was in a sketchy predicament, but he wasn’t worried about the outcome.
No, it was his moment to shine.
Knoxville Christian blasted a three-run home run in the bottom of the first inning of the National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) Division I National Championship to tie the game and looked poised to take the lead.
However, the senior and his Riverdale Baptist teammates were used to teams battling back and taking away early leads.
“At the end of the game, we are going to end up smiling because we are going to get that W,” Clements told his younger teammates moments after the game-tying home run. “Once their team felt the sense of excitement, it’s our turn to have our excitement.”
The Crusaders, the No. 1 ranked baseball team in the state of Maryland, would finish off Knoxville Christian the same way they did with almost every opponent this season; with complete domination.
Riverdale Baptist scored 12 unanswered runs, including two home runs from junior Jose Rivera. Meanwhile, senior right-hander Harold Cortijo fired six innings and struck out 10 as Riverdale Baptist won its fourth straight national championship, 15-3, to cap off a dream 2017 season.
Riverdale Baptist (30-1) entered the year with high expectations after last season’s 35-3 record. Within the first two weeks of this season, the Crusaders were rated No. 1 in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Super 25 Regional Rankings.
Head Coach Ryan Terrill said his team handled the hype well by focusing on the basics leading them to win their first 15 games.
“I’ve been telling a lot of people that this was probably the best practice team we had ever had,” Terrill said. “I think the fact that they loved to practice every single day, from November to March, it carried over to our season and gave them a chance to be a cohesive unit, win some close games and stay with a consistent energy level. They love to play the game.”
Several games were won with double-digit scores thanks to the team’s improved hitting. Riverdale Baptist drove in 328 total runs, averaging 10.6 runs a game.
Rivera, who became NACA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Hitter, led the team in home runs (10) and RBI’s (68). He will become one of the team’s leaders heading into next season, according to Terrill.
In addition to the hitting success, 2017 marked the final season of Cortijo’s pitching dominance with the high school team.
Since arriving his junior year, the right-handed Puerto Rican star dazzled observers with his pitching arm while contributing offensively with his hitting.
In his final season, Cortijo shined by posting an 11-0 record and had a 0.55 ERA with 86 strikeouts. As a hitter, he led the team in hits (58) while bombing four home runs, 33 RBI’s and a batting average of .537. He was awarded the 2017 NACA Tournament MVP and Maryland’s Gatorade Player of the Year in May.
The senior had committed to Seminole State College before the start of the season. However, plans changed after he was recently selected in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the New York Yankees.
Cortijo quickly signed with the Yankees following his selection and is currently playing for their Gulf Coast Rookie League affiliate in Florida, Terrill said.
“You cannot do better than being in an organization like the New York Yankees from a class standpoint,” Terrill said. “They take care of their high school kids and have a track record of developing high school pitchers. I think that’s what went into the decision of Harold bypassing college.”
Per team policy, the Yankees would not arrange media availability for their draft picks, including Cortijo.
Terrill spent the first two days of the draft proceedings with Cortijo as teams called him non-stop, but did not select him. On the third day, Terrill decided to play golf when he heard the Yankees selected his star pitcher.
“I just remember my assistant, my dad and I let out a big scream, probably woke up the rest of the golf course, and we did a little chest bump on the green afterward,” Terrill said. “You just want the best for your kids when they earn it.”