ROCKINGHAM — It was a game neither team could afford to lose.
With a three-team tie atop the Southeastern Conference standings, Richmond and Pinecrest squared off to grab a half-game lead over idle Lumberton Monday night.
Even though the game won’t go down as a classic, it will in the minds of anyone rooting for the Raiders.
Ethan Baucom’s infield single with two outs in the bottom of the sixth scored Mike Rush with the game-winning run to send Richmond to a 6-5 victory and into solo possession of first place in the SEC for now. Lumberton will attempt to climb back into a tie with Richmond when it travels to Laurinburg to battle Scotland tonight.
Baucom’s hit allowed Nic Bullard to earn the win on the mound. Bullard went all seven innings, allowing seven hits, walking one and striking out six. Four of the five runs Bullard surrendered were unearned.
Richmond coach Ricky Young said he wasn’t surprised to see his senior ace bounce back when a two-out error opened the door for a four-run third inning.
“Nic is always going to be even-keel out there,” Young said. “I can count on him to be focused. It was a gutsy effort.”
Bullard topped the 100-pitch count on the evening but said there was very little chance of him coming out of the game in the seventh. In addition to his work on the mound, Bullard connected for a two-run home run in the bottom of the second to give the Raiders a 2-0 lead.
“I was at 98 pitches going out for the seventh,” Bullard said. “I threw on four days rest last week and five days rest this week. It’s a grind. I’m normally around the mid 90s in pitches or sometimes over 100. I’m kind of used to it by now. It’s a given when you throw a complete game.”
In addition to Bullard’s blast, James Buie had a two-run home run of his own for Richmond (14-6-1, 7-2) in the third inning. The Raiders scored a run in the fourth inning on three base on balls and an error.
In the game-winning rally in the sixth, Rush was safe at first on an error. Cody Mullen and Bradley Brown walked to load the bases. Pinecrest reliever Jackson Maples struck out Buie before allowing Baucom’s game-winning hit.
“It was a good game,” Young said. “Both teams had opportunities to score and both teams let opportunities get away. We were able to scratch out some runs and win the game.”
With the loss, Pinecrest drops to 17-4 on the season and 6-3 in the SEC.
Richmond will close out the regular season at home against Scotland 7 p.m. Thursday. Pinecrest will wrap up its conference slate at home versus Hoke also on Thursday.
Sports editor Shawn Stinson may be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.