ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond baseball team’s undefeated championship run through the Seahawk Invitational this week was a much-needed boost heading into the final stretch of the regular season.
Prior to the invitational, which was played at Hilton Head (S.C.), the Raiders had trouble staying consistent: starting the season with four consecutive wins, losing back-to-back games, winning one, dropping three straight and then grabbing two home wins.
Head coach Ricky Young maintained that his players needed “to compete better” following a couple of those early losses, but that wasn’t the case in South Carolina.
“We were able to play more to what our identity is. We like to put pressure on the defense — do a lot of bunting and stealing bases. And we were able to do a lot of that this week,” Young said. “Earlier in the year, we really weren’t being aggressive enough or executing when the opportunity was there. I think this week we did a much better job of that.”
Richmond, now sitting at 11-5 overall thanks to a six-game win streak, opened with a 4-2 win over Hilton Head in the first round of the tournament. The victory was higlighted by Jonathan Lee’s two-run homer and a combined eight strikeouts from starting pitcher Hunter Paris and his relief Drew Grant.
In the second-round matchup versus Chapman (S.C.), it was Lee’s bat, again, that stood out as he went 4-for-4 at the plate — including another home run — and helped the team to a 6-3 win. To advance to the championship, the Raiders took out George Washington 4-1 behind Drew Loving’s pitching (four H, one ER, three Ks) and hitting (single, RBI single).
The title game versus Lexington Catholicy (KY) was won at the top of the seventh inning, where Richmond scored four runs in order to separate itself on the scoreboard. Zack Hinson, who scored a runner with a base hit in the first inning, recorded a two-RBI single in final inning. Gordon Pihl also picked up an RBI in the game.
Lee, who threw a perfect game against Hoke County last week, pitched six innings in the championship, giving up six hits and one earned run, and striking out four batters. He won Most Valuable Player of the invitational and was named to the All-Tournament Team alongside Loving and Trey Watkins — who earned nine strikeouts against Chapman.
“All three of them pitched the ball really well, along with Hunter Paris and Drew Grant,” Young said of the three all-tournament selections. “Those guys threw the ball really well for us this week. It all starts with pitching. If you get good pitching on the mound then you’ve got a good chance to win.”
Young hopes his team’s recent spark can carry over into the remaining seven games on the regular-season schedule. Richmond plays Lumberton twice (April 10, 13) and then travels to Northwest Guilford (April 14) next week. It closes out with games against Seventy-First (April 17, 20) and Scotland (Apr 24, 27).
“After we lost the game at Hoke, we came back at talked about the importance of the rest of the season,” he added. “So we can’t worry about what’s happened in the past, we just can control what’s in front of us.
“And I think we’ve done a good job of taking it one game at a time and just having fun.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.