ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond Senior softball team finally made it over the hump.
Thanks to seven players combining for 11 hits at the plate, the Lady Raiders defeated Mooresville 6-0 in order to advance past the fourth round of the NCHSAA 4A State Playoffs — which is something they haven’t been able to do in recent years.
Richmond broke the “second-round jinx” that haunted the program nearly four seasons ago, but quickly ran into another roadblock when it dropped three straight fourth-round games to Cape Fear (2014), South Caldwell (2015) and West Forsyth (2016).
This time around, however, the Lady Raiders will get a taste of the Final Four that had eluded them for many years.
“It feels awesome,” coach Wendy Wallace said. “It took us a few innings to adjust and make sure we weren’t dropping the bat head, but they came out and exectued our game plan once we got through the lineup one time.”
Both teams quickly made their way through the first three innings. Savannah Lampley (Richmond) and Imara Harrell (Mooresville) were the only two players to record a hit prior to the fourth inning.
The bats picked up for Richmond in the bottom of the fourth after Greyson Way lead off with a double that landed just a few feet inside the park. NaLee Jacobs and Brianna Baysek followed with groundouts, but Tori Mabe got the home team its first run with an RBI single.
Peyton Fann and Jadyn Johnson started the fifth inning with back-to-back doubles, with Fann coming home on Johnson’s hit and giving Richmond a 2-0 lead. Lampley found her way to first base on a bunt, Owen Bowers would hit a single and then Way recorded her first RBI single of the night.
The Lady Raiders had a 4-0 advantage after five.
“The girls, after their first at-bats, looked a little more comfortable at the plate,” Wallace said. “They came in at (the bottom of) the fourth inning and I told them to quit dropping their bat heads and hit line drives. And they went up there and executed.
“I knew if one started it, we would get going,” she added.
After hitting a pop fly in the second inning and grounding out in the fourth, Kayla Hawkins blasted a solo shot over the fence as the lead-off batter in the sixth inning. The freshman infielder was mobbed by her teammates once she made her way around the bases.
Following a fly ball from Fann, both Johnson and Lampley recorded singles. Bowers would hit a fly ball of her own right before Way picked up her second RBI of the night, hitting a single into left field for Richmond’s final run of the night.
“That was huge,” Wallace said of Hawkins’ home run. “We had pulled her out of the lineup one time because she was striking out some. But she came in at practice, worked hard and looked even better — more disciplined. She’s just done a really good job.”
Makenzie Ward retired Mooresville batters in order in the top of the seventh, ending the game by striking out Ansley Bagwell. The senior pitcher finished with three strikeouts and gave up three hits.
Way led Richmond with three hits, while Johnson and Lampley each finished with two. Bowers, Hawkins, Fann and Mabe each added a hit in the win.
“It’s good to see the bottom of our lineup, they’ve hit all the way through playoffs and that helps with the top (of the lineup). If we can hit one through nine, we’ll be tough to beat,” Wallace added.
Mooresville (21-4) had a few chances to put runs on the board in the fourth-round matchup.
Harrell made it to third base in both the third and fifth innings thanks to a couple of Richmond errors, but she wasn’t able to fully convert on the mistakes. Ward struck out Joelle Davis in the third and then forced Hailey Lane to hit a fly ball in the fifth.
The Lady Blue Devils were also knocking on the door in the fourth inning after Ruthie Jackson’s single put Brawley on third base. Once again, however, Ward stood tall and earned a strikeout to close the inning.
“We had a couple of miscues on defense but then we settled down,” Wallace said. “Makenzie came through and got two huge strikeouts. That was really big.”
Richmond (25-4) now turns its attention to the Western Regional finals, where it will face North Davidson in a best-of-three series sometime next week. North Davidson (25-5) defeated Alexander Central 9-6 on Thursday.
“We’re ready to roll,” Wallace added.
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.