GREENSBORO — Before the championship series started, Richmond Senior coach Ricky Young made a prediction — the team that commits the fewest errors will win.
Young’s words rang true as Richmond committed three errors that led to five unearned runs by West Forsyth, including three in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Those runs allowed the Titans to squeeze out a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Raiders in Game 1 of the best-of-three series Friday afternoon at UNC Greensboro Baseball Stadium.
“You can’t have three errors and expect to win,” Young said.
West Forsyth started its game-winning rally with one out. Brett Saunders and Alex Saphar both singled. Aaron Stamper drew a base on balls to load the bases, prompting Young to visit the mound to talk to his starter, Nic Bullard.
It was the third time in the game the Titans had loaded the bases against Bullard. They left the bases full in the first and scored twice in the second. Once again, West Forsyth was able to make the most of its opportunity.
Pinch runner Josh Futrell was forced home as Nick Adams was walked on four pitches, trimming Richmond’s lead to 4-3. Young called on Joe Butler to relieve Bullard after the bases-loaded walk. Butler promptly struck out Jarrett Corder for the second out.
Richmond appeared set to escape the threat as lead-off hitter Tripp Shelton hit a weak grounder to short. However, Cody Leviner’s throw to first bounced in the dirt and away from Ethan Baucom into shallow right. As the ball was rolling in right field, West Forsyth coach Brad Bullard waved home Saphar, Stamper and Adams to seize the lead.
“We were able to take advantage of their errors,” Brad Bullard said. “We fought back like we have all year.”
That breathing room was all West Forsyth starting pitcher Michael Bates needed. Bates, a UNC Greensboro signee, retired Richmond in order in the sixth and allowed a lead-off single in the seventh before settling down to pick up the compete-game victory and improve to 13-2 on the season.
“I think Michael threw well,” Brad Bullard said. “He has that bulldog mentality, He made a couple of bad pitches on 0-2 and 1-2.”
Richmond (23-8-1) led 3-2 before adding a run in the top of the fifth. Nic Bullard opened the inning with a triple. Courtesy runner Montek Johnson scored on Bradley Brown’s third hit of the game, a single to right. After a sacrifice bunt by James Buie, Richmond loaded the bases as Baucom and Taylor McLean were both hit by pitches.
Bates was able to wiggle out of the jam by coaxing Matt Pettit to fly out to shallow right field and striking out Kevin Lee.
Young thought being held to that lone run in the frame could have been the turning point in the game.
“We are up 4-2 and have the bases loaded with one out,” Young said. “We had a chance to get more runs.”
Brown finished 4 of 4 in the game with two runs batted in and Baucom had a hit in three at-bats with two RBIs. Alex Vanderstok led the offensive against for the Titans with three hits and an RBI.
The two teams will return to action 11 a.m. today in Game 2. West Forsyth is expected to start Travis Holden on the mound. Young wasn’t sure who would get the nod for Richmond between Buie and Leviner.
If the Raiders win to keep the series alive, the decisive Game 3 is scheduled for 5 p.m.
“It’s a three-game series, we have to flush this one,” Young said. “This team has been resilient all year.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.