ROCKINGHAM — After Thursday’s Game 1 loss, Richmond Senior coach Ricky Young was not pleased with his team’s approach at the plate against Middle Creek.
With only 24 hours between contests, Young knew he had to instill some confidence back into his offense.
“We talked a lot today to the kids and reminded them what we had done to get to this point,” Young said. “We let people get in our heads that we aren’t swinging the bats. We’re a good team, you don’t win 25 games without being able to hit.”
The Raiders responded to Young’s encouragement with eight hits in a 6-2 victory over the Mustangs Friday night at Raider Field to tie the 4A East Region Championship Series at 1. The third and final game is set for 7 p.m. today at Middle Creek.
“We knew we had to come out here and get some hits,” Bradley Brown said. “We had a lack of focus in the first game. We came out focused and it showed tonight.”
With the game tied at 2 in the bottom of the sixth, Richmond exploded for four runs on two hits. Following a single, a sacrifice bunt, two walks and a fielder’s choice loaded the bases with two outs, Jeremy Smith broke the deadlock by drawing a base on balls from reliever Jordan Towler. The next batter, Drew Butler, ripped a base-clearing double to the wall in left center. Butler was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
“I was looking for something to drive,” Butler said. “I knew we needed some insurance runs. I was going to take a strike and I knew he was probably going to come back with a fastball. It was right down the middle.”
Brown, who went 1-for-3 with a hit by pitch, made the biggest impact not at the plate, but on the mound. Young called on the sophomore to start the contest.
“I never even considered starting Nic (Bullard),” Young said. “He’s coming off throwing 110 pitches the other night (vs. Ashley). I had faith in Bradley and he did exactly what we needed him to do. I knew if I needed him, Nic could come in and throw an inning or two.”
The game played out exactly how Young had envisioned. Brown went 5 1/3 innings, allowing one hit, walked four, but more importantly, surrendered two runs.
“I knew I had to come in and throw strikes,” Brown said. “I had to answer Coach’s call.”
With the Raiders leading 2-1, Young pulled Brown in favor of Bullard in the top of the sixth with one out with the bases loaded. Bullard allowed a sacrifice fly to Diego Guerrero to knot the contest. He escaped further damage by getting pinch hitter Alex Williams to ground out to end the threat.
After receiving the four-run lead, Bullard walked Blake Hunley to open the seventh but coaxed Tyler Sholar to ground into a 6-4-3 double play. The hero of Game 1 for the Mustangs, Jimmy Boyd, singled with two outs. After stealing second, Boyd was stranded when Bullard struck out Keenan Herring to end the game.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org