Four local athletes strive for greatness during travel ball season


TAYLOR COUNTY—Some local athletes have been spending their summer making big plays on the diamond for their competitive travel baseball team, the Covered Bridge RiverJaxx. 

While RiverJaxx is a highly popular and well-known travel team for area youth athletes boasting six teams this year, the organization’s 11u squad, which made up of ten players, represents six counties: Harrison, Marion, Randolph, Barbour, Monongalia and Taylor. 

“It has been such an incredibly wonderful privilege to be able to work with a group of young men who have dedicated themselves to be the best in a game that they love. Over the past four years, this group has fought through many challenges but to watch them overcome the adversity by continuing to out work and out hustle their competition is truly inspiring,” expressed coach John Goudz. 

Of the ten members of the team, four reside in and attend school right here in Taylor County and have been doing a fantastic job representing the community on the road.

 Grant Murphy, John Kinder Goudz, Carter Gillespie and Chase Kinsey dedicated their summer to the passion they share for the sport of baseball, continuing to grow as individuals and team players, as they assisted the River Jaxx to an impressive 49-12 record for the spring/summer travel season.

While the team occasionally played single games throughout the week, most of the schedule consisted of traveling in order to compete in weekend tournaments. 

These tournaments consisted of at least two “pool play” games being played on Fridays and/or Saturdays. After that, seeding was conducted based on the records of those games, and teams entered bracket play games beginning on Sunday mornings. 

RiverJaxx parent Kym Gillespie shared that depending on the size of the tournament’s bracket, the teams may have played up to four games to reach the championship game on Sunday, meaning that being a part of this squad was no easy feat for these young athletes. 

However, these outstanding competitors pushed through and delivered exceptional performances. Taking first in seven of the 12 tournaments they competed in, the team made a name for themselves and will be one to watch for years to come. 

In addition to their seven first-place finishes, the 11U RiverJaxx also claimed runner up in three of the tournaments.

 This year’s tournaments had the boys competing locally in Morgantown and Bridgeport, but also had them on the road, as they traveled to Parkersburg, Belle Vernon, PA and Lowell, Ohio, with the last week-long tournament being held in Aberdeen, Maryland. 

The Tournament called the “Cal Ripken Blue Crab Tournament,” provided a once in a lifetime expirence for the members of the team, allowing the boys to also compete in skills challenges against other 11U squads from all over the country. 

The RiverJaxx team placed first in the skills challenge called the “Outfield Relay” with the fastest score of 6.23 seconds. “Essentially it is a timed skill from which an outfielder must grab the ball off the outfield wall, throw to the short stop as a cutoff man and then into the catcher at home. 

The time was from when the outfielder begins running for the ball to when the catcher puts the ball in a bucket on home base,” Gillespie explained.

 During the week in Aberdeen, the team yielded four wins and two losses, falling to a tough Fluvanna Virginia team in the semifinals game. 

According to Gillespie, the week was highlighted by the players getting to personally meet Cal Ripken, Jr. and Billy Ripken. 

The two former MLB players spoke for over an hour in a Q&A type session answering all kinds of questions, such as what superstitions and rituals they may have had when they were playing games to what type of advice they would give to young players, ages 11 and 12, like themselves. 

She also shared that all the 11U Jaxx families were able to relax a bit and made the week a week of vacation, taking part in some family fun activities including go-karting, fishing, kayaking and swimming. 

“These boys work week in and week out, really throughout the entire year, to make themselves better and be part of something bigger. They do this so that in three or four years when it’s time to play at another level, they can set the bar. Being part of a competitive youth baseball organization prepares them for high school competition and for those who want it badly enough, beyond high school,” voiced coach Bryan Gillespie.

 “But being part of something this special also teaches them lessons off the baseball field, and that’s why we do this, that’s why we’re here. We form a family, and that’s what these boys will take away from their experiences,” he added.

This year, the RiverJaxx organization is hoping to expand to seven squads rather than their usual six, and will be hosting tryouts for teams ages 8U-14U on August 21 and 22, at The Bridge” Recreation Complex, for the Fall 2021 season, which will later convert to the spring/summer travel teams for 2022.

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