Rocky Hill athletes Riley Donovan (left) and Tyler Schiavone (right) will both be attending Nichols College to continue their academic and athletic careers.
Tyler Schiavone and Riley Donovan have spent the last decade playing sports and developing a great friendship while living down the street from one another.
After four years at Rocky Hill High School, the duo will soon be graduating and have both committed to continue their academic and athletic careers at Nichols College.
“We’re rolling together,” stated Schiavone, who will play baseball at the Massachusetts-based college.
Schiavone moved to Rocky Hill in elementary school and has played a variety of sports, including football and basketball, but his true passion has always been on the diamond where he developed into a great pitching prospect on--and at--‘The Hill’.
“I’ve been pitching since I started playing baseball. It was the first position I learned. My family has always played baseball and growing up I always watched baseball. It was generally what came easiest to me.”
Schiavone’s father, Nick, played and coached baseball and was a big influence, along with Yankee-great Donnie Baseball.
“Don Mattingly was the first person that I remember looking up to because I remembered my dad saying that was who he looked up to,” recalled Schiavone, who described his dad as an encyclopedia of sports, “He wore #23 and that was my favorite number, and he played for the Yankees. I feel like he was my first inspiration because he was what got me into baseball.”
For Donovan, college soccer awaits him at the next level.
“My brother, who was a lot older than me, played in high school and I would always come to the games when I was little. Soccer was the first sport that I ever played, and I just kept going.”
Basketball, lacrosse, and track & field are the other athletic activities that Donovan excels at. When he wasn’t playing sports in school, he was traveling with his Premier soccer teams, including trips to Florida and Colorado.
Each has starred in their chosen sports, but the highlight came during their time together as juniors on the hardwood as parts of the infamous Road Dawgs, who pulled off four upsets in the Division IV basketball tournament en route to the championship game at Mohegan Sun.
Both referred to the improbable tourney run as the highlight of their time at Rocky Hill, specifically a dramatic overtime victory over St. Bernard in the quarterfinals, which Schiavone referred to as “the craziest game ever.”
Schiavone also experienced another unforgettable moment last spring when the Terriers baseball team, who entered the tourney as the #32 seed following a 6-14 regular season, upset #1 Haddam-Killingworth in the opening round of the Class M tournament.
“Matt Rados pitched an outstanding game. Throughout the whole game batters battled and we all believed in each other. In Connecticut, any team can beat anybody. We’re keeping up with these huge Class L and LL schools, and I think that us winning last year showed that it’s about who works harder.”
Coaching changes have also been part of the experience at RHHS.
This past fall Donovan and the soccer team welcomed new head coach, Kevin Williams, who helped lead the Terriers back into the tournament after they fell short of qualifying for the 2017 postseason.
“It was a big change. He brought a different mentality, it was more intense in practices,” said the all-conference center back, who enjoyed the increased intensity.
Not to be outdone, Schiavone has had a new baseball coach in each of his four seasons.
Despite the revolving door it’s been business as usual for the resilient baseballers of Rocky Hill.
“The transition wasn’t as hard as it could have been because of the past experiences. From the first time we met him we knew what he was trying to do and since then we’ve all enjoyed him,” Schiavone said of new coach Bill Eller, who has the Terriers pointed in the right direction.
Athletics are what dominates most of their time, but the two have found time to give back as members of the school’s Environmental Awareness Club, which was started by classmate Trevor Faber when the three were freshmen.
By late August, the soon-to-be high school graduates will be collegiate athletes working toward college degrees.
“Looking for what I wanted to go to school for and what is relatively close I think it was the best opportunity for me. Also being able to play baseball and knowing that one of my closest friends is going there,” Schiavone said of his new home away from home for the foreseeable future, “As a kid you think about going to college to play sports and not too many people get this opportunity.”
“I’m excited about the higher level of competition,” added Donovan, who will major in Sports Management.
As their time in high school reaches the eleventh hour, the thought of leaving Rocky Hill is something that is both exciting and bittersweet.
“I’ll miss the community of it, seeing those familiar faces when people in your town come to the games to watch you play,” said Donovan, who has lived in Rocky Hill his entire life, “It’s been a good four years, not only with sports but with the friends we’ve made and the memories that we’ve made with each other.”
“It’s gone by very, very fast. It’s crazy that college is just a couple of months away,” added Schiavone, “We’ve been playing with these same kids our whole lives and it’s going to be hard moving on. We’ve made a lot of memories here.”
The Starting Five: Local Athletes of the Week
Mason Fox- Cromwell (Baseball): Fox pitched a complete game, striking out eight and allowing only five hits in a 4-1 win over Valley Regional last Wednesday. It was the first win of the season for the senior, who will be a key piece to Cromwell’s rotation down the stretch.
Lauren Pattison- Rocky Hill (Softball): Pattison is the only senior and only captain on a young team, coached by Tyler Catlin who referred to her as a “third coach” due to her great decision making and perspective, as well as praising her consistency, attitude, and toughness. Furthermore she has started 56 consecutive games, dating back to her sophomore season, and has improved both her batting average and fielding percentage from a season ago.
Scott Robidoux- Newington (Lacrosse): Robidoux scored four goals, including his 100th career goal, during a 16-3 win over Wolcott on Senior Night last Friday. The senior attacker also dished out four assists in the victory, which was 10th win for the tourney-bound Indians.
Joe Chiappetta- Middletown (Lacrosse): Chiappetta scored five goals in a 10-2 win over Bristol Eastern last Thursday, earning the Blue Dragons their sixth win of the season. The junior has been an offensive force for a Middletown team that has been very impressive in their inaugural varsity season.
Paige Contenta, Shelly Pettengill, Kathleen Gilland- Wethersfield (Tennis): All three athletes finished 4-0 in their matches last week as Wethersfield earned convincing team wins over Bloomfield (7-0), Northwest Catholic (6-1), and Suffield (7-0). The Eagles next face Newington in a pivotal match this Thursday, May 16 at NHS starting at 3:45 pm.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin