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The Riverbend baseball team celebrates a 3-2 victory over Stone Bridge to capture the Region 5D championship. (Photo courtesy of Jim Labrusciano)

Courtland and Riverbend baseball basking in ‘special’ postseason runs

by | Jun 7, 2024 | ALLFFP, High school sports, Schools & Education, Spotsylvania

After the Courtland and Riverbend baseball teams split a pair of nondistrict matchups during the regular season, it is no surprise to either coach that the Cougars and Bears are still alive deep in the postseason. 

Courtland (18-5) will take on Tuscarora (18-7) in the Class 4 state semifinals Friday at 11 a.m. at Western Albemarle High School. Riverbend (17-7) will battle First Colonial (17-5) in the Class 5 semis Friday at 1 p.m.  

The Bears are looking to advance to the state championship game for the first time in school history, while the Cougars hope to reach the title matchup for the first time since they won it all at the Group AA level in 2000. 

“I think it’s special,” Riverbend head coach Jim Labrusciano said. “I think it speaks a lot about the baseball community in general around here. There are a lot of good players … It’s a good rivalry between the schools. Courtland conducts itself the right way with a blue-collar mentality, and we are beginning to lay the foundation for something like that at Riverbend.” 

The Bears claimed the Region 5D championship with a victory over Stone Bridge for the first regional title in the school’s 20-year existence before taking down Franklin County in the state quarterfinals

Courtland dropped the Region 4B title game to Atlee, 5-2, but bounced back to dispatch Gloucester 4-2 in the state quarterfinals earlier this week. 

Courtland pitcher Ryan Hoburg celebrates with teammates after getting the final out in the Cougars’ state quarterfinal win over Gloucester.

Labrusciano and Courtland head coach Chris Meek said the players and coaches have been rooting for each other. 

“Any time we can get any local team to advance in the playoffs I think it’s a great thing,” Meek said. “Our community gets to support the local kids, and I think it’s tremendous. Riverbend is a good team that is well-coached, and I’m glad they are having success.” 

Labrusciano joined the Bears in 2023 after a lengthy tenure at North Stafford. He lives near Riverbend and was thrilled to take the reins and have a much shorter commute.  

The Bears have quickly established a winning culture under his leadership in part because of a core group of seniors. 

Jacob McCollum pitches and plays first base. He was also a state champion wrestler in the heavyweight division. He is 6-0 on the mound and was named second-team all-Commonwealth District and all-region. 

“He brings that warrior mentality to baseball,” Labrusciano said. 

Aiden Klimtzak, who will continue his career at Carson-Newman University, pitches and plays third base. Anthony Piceriello is a second baseman who will play college baseball at the University of Virginia-Wise. 

Labrusciano said these Bears have been determined to leave their mark, even repeatedly shouting “This is our legacy!” after one of their milestone victories. 

“It’s been really cool. These kids have embraced it,” Labrusciano said of the deep playoff run. “It started with last year’s seniors. They won the regular season for the first time but got smashed in the regional finals against a very good Independence team. That set the tone for these guys.

“They wanted to top it, and now they have the most wins, a regional championship, a state game victory, and they’re going to the final four for the first time.” 

Courtland has embraced its run, as well. 

The Cougars lost their top two pitchers from last year as Calvin Rogers graduated and Jackson Garland transferred to Mechanicsville. That has not stopped Courtland as Tyler Jackson (0.51 ERA) stepped up as the ace of the staff, and the team relied on a combination of quality arms and timely hitting to advance. 

“It’s an opportunity a lot of players don’t get,” Meek said of reaching the state semis. “It’s the first time in 24 years a team from Courtland has been able to experience it and only the third time in Courtland history. I’m just glad these guys are getting the opportunity because they earned it … However, it ends up, it ends up, but this is an experience that can’t be taken away from them.” 

The Cougars snapped Gloucester’s 10-game winning streak with their road victory in the quarterfinals. 

Jackson, who is the Battlefield District player of the year, earned the win on the mound by going 6 2/3 innings and allowing five hits and no earned runs with seven strikeouts and no walks. Carlos Santos, Tanner Lam, Maddux Rothel and Ryan Hoburg had an RBI apiece, while Santos, Nate Jackson, and Kellen Bock each had two hits. 

Jackson is unavailable to pitch against Tuscarora. 

“It will be a mix of arms,” Meek said. “Tyler can’t go but everybody will be behind [the pitching staff]. It’s going to take a total buy-in. Whatever we’re facing, we’re going to face it together, and that’s a compliment to the team.” 

If Courtland wins, it will face the winner of Atlee and Dominion in the title game on Saturday at Western Albemarle. If Riverbend gets past First Colonial, it will take on the winner of Mills Godwin and Maury Saturday at Glen Allen.

In other state tournament action, the Courtland girls’ tennis team saw its best season to date come to an end with a 5-2 loss in the Class 4 finals on Friday in Newport News.

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