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Riverview High softball wins with a smile

The Rams are 12-3 thanks to commanding pitching, timely hitting and a lot of joy.

Riverview High junior pitcher Allison Cole has a 1.12 ERA in 2024 as of April 16.
Riverview High junior pitcher Allison Cole has a 1.12 ERA in 2024 as of April 16.
Photo by Ryan Kohn
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Allison Cole doesn't like the spotlight. 

The Riverview High softball junior pitcher is shy, by her own admission. Rams head coach Tom Forkan and assistant coach Neil Bain joke about not getting more than a few words out of her. At the beginning of the season, Cole said, she nervous about being on the team at all. Cole didn't play high school softball as a sophomore or freshman, only joining this season to play alongside a few friends — and even then, she did so with reticence.

Fifteen games into the 2024 season, Cole has become the team's rallying point. 

"It's actually been fun," Cole said with a smile. "It's a little unexpected." 

Hearing the comment, junior Sierra Lipton gave Cole a hug and swayed her back and forth. 

"She loves us," Lipton said. Both girls laughed. 

Laughter has been contagious in the Riverview dugout. It's what happens when a team wins. 

The Rams are 12-3 in 2024 following a 5-0 win over Lakewood Ranch High on April 2. Cole pitched a complete game, allowing two hits and four walks while striking out 15 Mustangs. The shutout brought her season ERA down to 1.19, accumulated over 82.2 innings. She holds a 10-1 record. In producing those numbers, Cole has won the total trust of her teammates, who feel less pressure at the plate knowing Cole will have their back in the next half inning. 

Riverview High junior Ella Trandem had two RBIs against Lakewood Ranch High on April 2.
Photo by Ryan Kohn

"She gets me pumped," junior Ella Trandem said. "Every time she strikes someone out, I'm screaming. It gives us a lot of confidence. Even if we get down, I know everything is going to be OK." 

That energy carries over to the plate. Riverview is not yet a consistently dominant offense, but four Rams — Cole, Lipton, Trandem and junior Isabelle Bain — are hitting above .300, and the team as a whole has shown a propensity for scoring timely runs, particularly in the second half of games. Against Lakewood Ranch (1-15), the Rams had just two runs through four innings before scoring three runs in the fifth to break the game open. Trandem led the way with a double and two RBIs. 

Getting to this point has been an unexpected journey. Riverview went 4-18 in 2023, and Forkan took the head coaching position prior to this season after serving as an assistant. The addition of Cole catalyzed the turnaround, Forkan said, but he's also proud of the way the rest of the team has responded. The work started over the summer, when several Rams joined Forkan's Raiders club team to get in extra work, sometimes extending the club's 90 minute practices by an additional 90 minutes, working on anything from hitting to picking the ball at first base. Asked how many balls he hits to the team's defense each practice, assistant coach Neil Bainjoked it was a number high enough to require a dose of ibuprofen afterwards. 

In reality, the coaches would not want it any other way. 

"We have been blessed," Bain said. "It makes it easy, as a coach. And they love each other. There's no bickering. We don't have to force team bonding here. It just happened." 

The Rams have eight games before the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs begin April 29. They are ranked No. 15 in Class 7A by the FHSAA as of April 2. The program's turnaround has been stark. Yet the Rams believe their best days could still be ahead if their lineup can avoid hitting slumps and they continue to play strong defense behind Cole. The offense catching fire in April could mean the team is peaking when the playoffs begin. 

"We have set new goals," Forkan said. "We want to win the second half of the season. After that, we'll reset and try to do well in districts and not embarrass ourselves. Wherever the season takes us, we're going to go. They're hungry. They have a heart for the game. It's rare to get 11 girls like that."

Whatever happens, the Rams will have a great time through it all. As Lipton said, the energy around the program is showing no signs of fading.

"The confidence boost we get from winning is crazy," Lipton said. "We were happy before, but this (year) is nothing like we have ever had."



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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