LISBON — Lisbon baseball coach Dave Gravlin looks back fondly on his first experience in coaching Ben LaRock and his five senior teammates on this year’s Golden Knight squad.
In 2014, at an Under-10 Tournament in Plattsburgh, Lisbon lost every game by the mercy rule.
But the future Golden Knights got better and better.
In 2017 they won every tournament in their age group and then revitalized a Lisbon Central program that did not field a varsity team for two years.
As freshmen, led by LaRock’s pitching, hitting, defense at shortstop and aggressive base-running, they were part of a Golden Knight squad that reached the state semifinals.
After the COVID-19 closed down the 2020 season, the Knights went undefeated in the Northern Athletic Conference West and won the Section 10 Class C title in 2021. They went undefeated again the recently completed 2022 NAC West campaign but were upset by Heuvelton in the Class D semifinals.
“You can’t win them all is what they say and that is what happened. Heuvelton played great and they beat us,” said LaRock looking back on the end of a high school baseball career which ranks among best ever in Section 10.
He earned first team All-NAC West honors four times, he was named as the NAC West MVP for the past two years, he earned Times All-North honors in 2019 and 2021 and has capped a spectacular senior season as the Times’ NAC MVP on the 2022 All-North squad.
This season LaRock shook off the disappointment of not being able to pitch because a elbow injury. He batted .593 with 35 hits, four home runs, 31 runs scored and 30 RBIs. He went 16-for-16 in stolen base attempts and did not strike out once in 67 plate appearances.
He, fellow seniors Griffin Walker (.369) and Jayden Williams (.367), sophomore Lucas Gravlin (.492) and junior Isaac LaRock (.367) led Lisbon to a .368 team batting average.
“I couldn’t pitch so I challenged myself to focus on my batting average and all other aspects of the game,” LaRock said.
LaRock and his fellow seniors finished their careers with a 64-9 record in grades seven through 12 at Lisbon.
“Once again, just like he does year in and year out, Ben put together another monster season,” Gravlin said. “Ben led us in all offensive categories and nobody works harder than he does. He received our Senior Leadership Award and was our Offensive MVP.”
“I don’t know much about the statistical history of baseball here at LCS but I’m willing to bet that nobody’s numbers and impact matches Ben’s,” Gravlin continued. “He ability to impact a game on the bases is amazing, in all the years that I have coached Ben I can’t recall any time that he was thrown out trying to steal a base.”
Coach Gravlin cited LaRock for being a leader in providing a positive outlook that marked the entire Lisbon program, the coach said.
LaRock counts his blessings: playing with great teammates in baseball and soccer, playing with his brother Jack for three seasons, playing for his dad Darren LaRock, who was an assistant coach throughout his career, and playing for Gravlin.
“Playing for my dad was special and Coach Gravlin is such a great coach and does so much for us. He will be out working on the mound on game days,” LaRock said.
“In baseball and soccer for six years we have played in so many big games and our only losses came in high level games,” he added. “And we have had so much fun together and not just on the field. There have been so may great bus rides, so many team dinners, we received such great support and I feel that as seniors we have had a big impact on the younger players.”
LaRock’s abilities and leadership in baseball and soccer drew interest from college coaches but at the present time he believes that his competitive athletic career in those sports is behind him. He plans to follow this brother’s example and attend lineman school in Georgia.
“I have had two hip surgeries and I have had elbow injuries so I just don’t think I could play sports in college. So I am looking forward to attending lineman school,” he said.
“But I have to consider myself lucky. I have been a part of so many great rides. We always had great chemistry.”
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