Despite suffering the final loss of a 25-8 season, Young beamed with pride when he reflected about his team’s accomplishments.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Young said. “No one expected us to win 25 games with just three seniors. I know the program is headed in the right direction. We have guys who have bought in to what we are preaching. Now they have a taste of what we can do.”
Young knew the Raiders had their opportunities against the Mustangs, but a defense which had been sound for much of the season began to crack.
“We had four double play opportunities and we only got three outs out of them,” Young said. “That really broke the game open.”
Middle Creek took advantage of the extra at-bats to pound out 10 hits against Richmond’s top two pitchers to claim an 8-2 victory Saturday night in the decisive game of the East Region Championship Series. Four of the Mustangs’ runs were unearned.
Richmond committed four errors, two in the second inning when Middle Creek scored five runs to chase starter Nic Bullard from the game. Bullard, who earned the victory in Friday’s Game 2, lasted 1 1/3 innings before giving the ball up to Ryan Mercer.
“Nic and Ryan gave us what we needed,” Young said. “We just didn’t execute when we had the chance.”
Mercer provided the only offense for Richmond on the night with a two-run home run with two outs in the top of the first off Middle Creek starter Graham Edwards.
“Everyone got really excited after that,” Mercer said. “But I think we may have relaxed a little too much.”
Edwards said falling behind has been the norm for him when he is on the mound.
“It’s been a pattern all year,” Edwards said. “The first inning is always my worst inning. If I can get through the first inning then I settle down.”
Edwards found his groove after the opening frame. After allowing two hits in the first, Edwards limited the Raiders to two hits over the final six innings. The left-hander struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter in the complete-game victory.
Saturday’s loss wrapped up a tough five-day stretch for both Richmond and Middle Creek. The Raiders edged Ashley 2-1 last Tuesday before beginning the East Region Championship Series with the Mustangs on Thursday. Middle Creek escaped with a 4-3 victory over Millbrook.
“Last night we were focused, we had pressure on us, but it wasn’t like tonight’s game,” said Richmond senior left fielder Austin Brower. “It’s very, very tough to play three games three days in a row, especially against a halfway decent team.”
Despite getting further than any Richmond team has since 2000, when the Raiders lost in the state final series to Apex, Alex Clark didn’t want to see the season end.
“I’m glad we got this far, but it sucks it had to stop right now,” the senior infielder said.
Four Raiders named to conference team
ROCKINGHAM — The pitching duo of sophomore Nic Bullard and senior Ryan Mercer were two of four Richmond Senior baseball players named to the all-conference team.
In addition to Bullard and Mercer, sophomore catcher/pitcher Bradley Brown and junior center fielder Jeremy Smith were also selected to the all-SEC squad.
The SEC’s player of the year was Scotland’s Curt Britt, while his father and coach, Tommy Britt, was honored as the coach of the year.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org