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Sports: Turning Back the Clock

Rams, seven years ago, went all the way to the state finals.

One of Robinson High’s greatest baseball seasons ever ended with a disappointing, lopsided loss when the Rams fell to the heavy-hitting Great Bridge Wildcats (Chesapeake) at the 2003 Virginia State AAA title game which took place at Shepherd Stadium in Colonial Heights.

The one-sided championship game setback hardly diminished the outstanding spring season it had been for head coach Bill Evers and his Rams, who ran into a Great Bridge squad that had ousted defending state champion Madison in a semifinals game in similar fashion, 14-0.

The state finals game story, recorded in the June 12-18, 2003 edition of the Fairfax Connection put some perspective on the Robinson loss.

“The letdown of not winning was tempered by the realization of just how good a team — especially offensively — the champion Wildcats are,” the story read. “Great Bridge, just as it had done against Madison, hit the ball all over the ball park against the Rams. The Southeastern Region champion Wildcats knocked around 11 hits, including four extra base hits, to dominate the title game affair and win their first state crown in school history.”

Evers, the Rams’ head coach, was impressed with the Great Bridge offense.

“They’re as good a hitting team as we’ve seen all year,” he said. “They put so much pressure on you with the bats. You’ve got to come out and play close to a perfect game to beat these guys. They really swing the bat well.”

ROBINSON, competing in its first state championship game since winning the title back in 1980, had made it to the finals with a semifinals win over Forest Park (Prince William), 12-9, four days earlier at Shepherd Stadium. The finals game against Great Bridge had been scheduled for the following day but rain in the Richmond/Colonial Heights area that weekend had forced three consecutive days of the title game being postponed. The game finally took place on a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon/evening.

But as it turned out, about the only thing to effectively slow down Great Bridge had been the weather. In the title game, the Wildcats scored five runs in the top of the second inning before effectively putting the game away the following three innings by scoring one, two and four runs to build a 12-3 lead it would never lose.

The highlight of the game for Robinson came when clean-up hitter Andrew Fritz, the Rams’ senior catcher, blasted a two-run homer over the right center field fence with two outs in the third inning to get his team within 6-3.

The Rams, which went 22-5, experienced some solace afterwards, finishing second in the Northern Region to Madison and making it all the way to the state championship game.

“We got here,” said Robinson senior third baseman Mark Genovese. “Twenty-three years ago was the last time we made it this far. It was a real good accomplishment. Coming into the season we knew we would go far. We were expected to be one of the top teams in the region. Things worked out good.”

Fritz echoed those sentiments.

“When I look back on it, I’ll see it was kind of a cool thing to have reached the state finals,” he said. “It’s a great experience to be the first team in 23 years to represent Robinson here.”

Wiley Lee, the Great Bridge head coach, was gracious in victory.

“Robinson is a great team,” he said. “We were fortunate to take advantage of a couple of their mistakes.”