ROCKINGHAM — Most coaches would be going crazy if they were missing the top three hitters in their lineup.
Not Richmond Senior coach Ricky Young.
He doesn’t mind having Bradley Brown, Drew Butler and Jeremy Smith participating in the Powerade State Games this week because it gives several of his younger players a chance to compete on the varsity level for the first time. In addition to having those three players out, Young will look to replace Austin Brower and Ryan Mercer, who graduated earlier this month.
In Thursday’s Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League contest, Young started four players without varsity experience and another who saw limited action during the Raiders’ postseason run.
“It really is just an extended evaluation period,” Young said after Richmond defeated North Moore 10-0. “We kept 18 on the varsity and 20 on the junior varsity. I really like this because it beats having them tryout for one or two days. We like to think of this as an extended tryout.”
One of the players who took advantage of his playing time was Cody Leviner. A rising sophomore, Leviner started at shortstop in place of Butler and had a triple and a sacrifice fly at the plate. Taking the mound in relief, Leviner tossed two scoreless innings before the contest was halted because of the 10-run rule in the fifth inning.
“We tell them if they can swing the bat, we will find a place for you,” Young said. “We’re seen some good things from the younger players. That’s good because that is going to create some competition and depth. We want to have people battle for playing time.”
Young added he will also be looking for another arm or two to join his pitching staff. Mercer was the team’s No. 1 starter in the spring and Nic Bullard is expected to take that role next year. James Buie, Jacob Sears and Brown all started at least one game during Richmond’s 25-8 season.
In the Raiders’ two summer games Young has used five pitchers — Bullard, Buie, Sears, Leviner and Ethan Baucom — and plans on spreading the ball around to all of them.
“We’re going to limit their innings,” Young said. “Four of our pitchers are on showcase teams, so we want to protect their arms. In the spring, they are only so many innings to go around, so the summer carries a lot of weight.”
The Raiders, who defeated West Stanley 6-1 in the season opener, will return to action at 7 p.m. Monday when North Moore returns to Raider Field.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org