Spartans slay Raiders

Shawn Stinson|Daily Journal Richmond Senior catcher Owen Bowers tags out South Caldwell’s Blake Gosnell in the third inning of the state 4A fourth-round contest Friday night.

HUDSON — It was tailor-made for a comeback.

Richmond Senior’s top hitter at the plate with a chance to keep the inning alive for the team’s top run producers.

With Richmond’s back against the wall, Doodle Jacobs lofted a lazy pop to first. South Caldwell’s Haley Crouch calmly closed her mitt on the ball to end the threat — and the ball game.

And just like that, Richmond’s season, for the second year in a row, came to a conclusion in the fourth round of the state 4A playoffs.

The top-seeded Spartans advanced to the West Region final series with a 5-2 victory over the Raiders Friday night. South Caldwell will face North Davidson, which ended Alexander Central’s 95-game winning streak with a 10-5 victory.

“They got some big hits,” Richmond coach Wendy Wallace said. “I thought we played well also.”

South Caldwell launched two home runs that proved to be the difference in the victory. The first came in the third inning after Richmond starter NaLee Jacobs had limited the home team to two bases on balls. On a 2-2 pitch with Olivia Spencer on first, Makayla Carver connected on a two-run home run to left-center.

The Spartans had a chance to extend their lead later in the inning as Blake Gosnell followed Carver’s shot with a triple. Madison Bumgarner, who is a distant cousin to the San Francisco Giants pitcher with the same name, was “intentionally” walked. Breanna Hager hit a foul pop down the first-base down that Richmond first baseman Chelsea Davis grabbed. Gosnell attempted to tag up and score on the play, but Davis fired a strike to Owen Bowers to cut down the runner.

An inning later, South Caldwell used the long ball again to add to its lead. Lauren Huffman connected for a solo home run to lead off the frame in nearly the same spot as Carver’s homer.

“They were both screwballs,” NaLee Jacobs said.

Unlike the win over Olympic Wednesday when the top of the lineup sparked Richmond, the bottom of the order got the offense going. Haleigh Denham opened the top of the fifth with a deep fly ball to right that Gosnell snagged just at the fence. Peyton Fann, Caroline Wilson and Carleigh Haywood all followed with singles to load the bases.

This prompted South Caldwell coach Casey Justice to visit the pitcher’s circle to talk to Bumgarner. It didn’t work as Kelsey Mabe ripped a two-run single to pull Richmond to within one. Doodle Jacobs reached on an error to load the bases once again.

Then came a play that could have swung the momentum to the visitors’ dugout. Katie Satterfield hit a fly ball to center field. Wallace elected to have Haywood tag up and try to score. Carver fired a laser to Huffman who tagged Haywood for the final out of the inning.

“If I had to do it over again, I would do it the same,” Wallace said. “Carleigh is one of our fastest runners on the team. It was a decent fly ball to the outfield and we tell them to tag up. It was going to take a good throw to get her and they did.”

South Caldwell quickly built its lead back to two on Bumgarner’s sacrifice fly to center to score Carver. It added another insurance run in the sixth on an RBI-single by Madison Burch.

Richmond loses three senior starters — Davis, Denham and Satterfield — off this year’s 21-5 team. Wallace is excited about the program as it begins to add players who made the Dixie Youth World Series several years ago.

“We have a bright future,” Wallace said. “We hate to see Haleigh go because she held down center for us. And Katie and Chelsea had big hits for us. We have a good, solid core coming back.”

Reach managing editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 and follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.