When Richmond Hill High School’s baseball team’s season came to an end in the second round of the GHSA Class 6A state playoffs – it lost to eventual state champion Houston County – baseball did not end for three Wildcats. Luke Boone, Leighton Finley and Evan Cowan, all rising seniors, wasted no time in moving on to playing with their travel ball team Game On Vipers 2022.
The three rising seniors all had an outstanding season for the Wildcats and have continued to play well for the Vipers who were 22-6-1 with a 14-game winning streak going into a tournament this week in Marietta, Ga.
In a 17U tournament in Sanford, Fl., last week they showed why they have drawn the attention of college scouts when Boone earned Most Valuable Player honors, Finley won MVP for pitching and Cowan hit .400 for the five games.
Finley is committed to play at Georgia, Boone’s headed to Georgia State and Cowan is mulling several offers. His older brother Mitch graduated this year and signed to play at Andrew College.
The Vipers are coached by Charles Smith, a retired Army officer, who has been coaching the trio, along with Roman Wood who lives in Richmond Hill but goes to school at Savannah Country Day, since they were eight years old.
“They’re the only players we’ve got from Richmond Hill,” Smith said. “The rest of our players come from Florida— Noah Wood is from Florida but he used to live in Richmond Hill— and South Carolina. We have one from Macon.”
Smith and the three rising Wildcats seniors first connected when he started coaching an 8U team in the Richmond Hill Recreation Department.
“I’ve been coaching them now for 10 years,” Smith said. “That’s unheard of. No one else, high school or college, will coach them as long as I have. “It’s been a lot of fun to see them develop as players and young men,” Smith said. “It’s been a very special thing to see.”
Finley and Boone have the ability to dominate as pitchers and as position players they are outstanding. Boone plays the outfield while Finley shines at shortstop. Cowan is an outfielder who took an occasional turn on the mound for the Wildcats.
This spring Finley hit .362 in the regular season and was 3-2 as a pitcher with 48 strikeouts and only four walks in 32 innings. Boone hit .361 despite a slow start that saw him hitting .150 after 14 games. He hit .520 the final 14 games.
Cowan hit a solid .357 and was the Wildcats’ most consistent hitter from start to finish.
Travel ball means exactly that as the Vipers play their games in three locations: Fort Myers, Fl., Sanford, Fl., and Atlanta.
“We had an 8U all-star team and from that it evolved into a travel team,” Smith said. “Now we play 45-50 games. We started out as a Richmond Hill team but now we’ve become a Coastal Georgia team.
“These guys work hard and they’re always trying to get better. They care about their teammates and winning. When they were in the 8th grade at Richmond Hill Middle School they dominated and Roman shattered offensive records.”