ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior coach Wendy Wallace doesn’t plan on varying from her blueprint.
And why should she?
Richmond is off to its best start in school history — 17-0 — and matched the school-mark with its 17th straight win Thursday night. It even clinched the Southeastern Conference regular season championship with the 5-0 victory over Lumberton and will have the No. 1 seed in the league tourney.
But more importantly, the Raiders will be the No. 1 team out of the SEC when the 4A playoff brackets are revealed in mid-May.
Until closing out the conference regular season with home games against Pinecrest and Scotland, Wallace will take her team to the annual Beach Diamond Invitational Softball tournament at West Brunswick High in Shallotte.
It is the third straight year Richmond has participated in the event. The Raiders won the championship last season after finishing second in 2012.
So when Richmond hits the field in the opening game of the tournament against Whiteville 10 a.m. Monday, expect its usual starting nine in the lineup. The next five games are relatively “meaningless” because Richmond can’t improve its seeding in the next three weeks, but Wallace said there is a reason she plans on keeping her starters in.
“Right now, I don’t want to interfere with our defense,” Wallace said. “We are playing good defense.”
The only change Wallace will make next week is adding her junior varsity pitcher — Nalee Jacobs — to the roster. Wallace said she elected to do this to give the freshman some experience in case she is needed in the SEC tournament or the playoffs.
But again Wallace stressed, she plans on going with the players that have gotten her to this point “unless something happens.”
“I’m going to try to get as many people in as I can,” she said. “But we want to win.”
After facing Whiteville Monday, Richmond will take on South Columbus at 10 a.m. Tuesday before wrapping up the round-robin part of the tournament against East Columbus at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The teams will then seeded to determine their finish.
The fifth-place game is set for 1 p.m. Wednesday, the third-place contest is scheduled for 4 p.m. and the championship will take place at 7 p.m.
According to Maxpreps.com, Whiteville will come into the event with a 12-3 record. South Columbus is 12-2 and East Columbus sports a 5-4 mark. Davie is 9-5 and West Brunswick is 10-2.
Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.