It should have been a season of hellos and goodbyes for Riverside, but like everyone else, the opportunity to do either was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Warriors had eight seniors on the roster this year, all of whom were denied their swan songs in their school’s uniforms.
Coach Stacy Hobbs did a de facto Senior Night for them as all came to the field individually and as he said, “got gifts and hugs,” as part of an emotional evening.
“We all met and there were a lot of tears shed,” Hobbs said. “A lot of those kids had different coaches at Riverside and this was the first group of seniors I had been with for four years. It was going to be special.”
Hobbs was an assistant under Maria Taylor before taking over as the head coach two seasons ago. This senior class of Warriors advanced to regional championship series, falling to George Washington in their freshmen and sophomore seasons.
Last year, after a big class of seniors moved on, Riverside struggled to the tune of an 11-18 season. But this year, with another year of growth, some key freshmen and some imports from the now-consolidated Valley High School, Hobbs was confident his group would have made some big strides.
“I think we would’ve shocked some people,” Hobbs said. “When you have DuPont Middle School, East Bank Middle School, Valley Middle School and Valley High School all coming to me at one time, you have the makings for something special and it’s not going to stop. I truly believe the program is going to keep growing and growing and growing.”
Likely leading the team this year would have been Jasmine Symms, a four-year starter with the ability to play in the middle infield or in the outfield and also provided speed and contact atop the Warriors’ lineup. Symns, a second-team, All-State selection in basketball, will continue her career on the hardwood at West Virginia State next season.
Fellow senior Grace Tucker was back after handling the bulk of the pitching duties a year ago and Hobbs said she’d made improvements by leaps and bounds after struggling at times a year ago.
“She matured some and got to working with [pitching coach] Ty McKinney in Huntington and it had really helped her confidence-wise,” Hobbs said.
Mayci White, an incoming ninth grader, figured to spell Tucker in the circle while Hobbs was also excited about freshman Alanna McKenzie, a 6-foot corner infielder that also started in the post for the school’s basketball team this winter.
“They saw the potential with what was there,” Hobbs said. “Jasmine really stepped into that leader role last year and then this year, every practice she was talking and keeping kids motivated and getting them moving. She smiled a lot those two weeks of practice we got in, because she could see the talent we had.”
Juniors Haley Myers (catcher) and Mallory Kincaid (outfielder) were also expected starters after arriving from Valley this season.
That consolidation presented an interesting dynamic at Riverside this year. And while it was understandably bumpy at first, Hobbs said that by the time his team got to practice, it had already jelled.
“When they first came in there were jitters and they were standoffish and I could see it during football season and stuff,” Hobbs said. “But about October they started conditioning as a group and they’d go to the weight room and do exercises and lift weights, I could see them really starting to bond. By now, there’s no animosity between them anymore.”
Hobbs also believes that with the addition of that feeder system, the future of athletics at Riverside is extremely bright.
“It started with the football program and they did pretty good with all those schools coming,” I believe baseball is going to be good and we’re going to get better, stronger youth programs going now. I really believe the sky is the limit.”