ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond softball team was on the verge of losing to its rival on Senior Night and missing out on its second consecutive undefeated run through regular-season conference play.
It had struggled to get the bat on the ball early, ran into some trouble on the mound — which resulted in a 7-0 deficit heading into the bottom of the fourth inning — and found itself down by five runs entering the seventh.
But what is known as Raider Magic around Richmond County gave Richmond the necessary spark to propel it to a thrilling 9-8 victory over Scotland in front of an excited home crowd on Friday.
“I told the the girls they worked too hard to let their rivals come in and beat them on Senior Night and mess up their undefeated conference record,” head coach Wendy Wallace said. “They’ve got a lot of pride, so they didn’t want to give up a loss — especially to them.”
Following Wallace’s speech, junior shortstop Savannah Lampley took the plate and led off the bottom of the seventh with a bunt — on the first pitch — that got her to first base. Senior catcher Owen Bowers was walked on a full count and then junior ace Greyson Way blasted a three-run homer to bring the Lady Raiders within two runs.
After welcoming Way home alongside the rest of the team, senior outfielder Bri Baysek took the plate and sent a solo shot over the fence for Richmond’s seventh run of the night. Both sophomore Kayla Hawkins and junior Taylor Parrish would follow with singles, freshman Paige Ransom hit one deep that was caught but helped Hawkins and Parrish advance, and then sophomore Madison Jordan ground out.
And with the Lady Raiders facing two outs on Senior Night, freshman Payton Chappell — the final batter of the lineup — rose to the occassion and whipped a walk-off two-run single down the third-base line to seal the comeback.
“I told them that it was going to take every single one of them to win this game. And it did,” Wallace said.
Scotland (9-9, 5-9 SAC) hit a groove at the top of the third and fourth innings, after going without a hit in the first two, and wound up leading by seven runs after 4 ½ innings of play. It tallied eight of its 11 hits during that span, which featured a two-run homer from sophomore Katie Smith in the third and four RBI in the fourth.
Wallace was forced to stop play so she could go out and talk to Way, who was struggling with her throws, on the mound.
“Just to settle, hit her spots and the let her defense work,” Wallace said of their conversation on the mound. “It’s tough playing the same team in the same week. They’re going to adjust because they’ve got a couple of days to practice.”
Way would finally force a groundout to end the fourth inning. She gave up one hit in the fifth, two in the sixth and then retired Scotland’s batters in order — all strikeouts — at the top of the seventh. She finished the rivalry matchup with eight strikeouts and one base on ball, giving up six earned runs on 11 hits in the process.
“We’ve got other (pitchers), but we’re going to ride Greyson like we’ve done all year,” Wallace added. “She’s our go-to on the mound. She’s just got to suck it up and hit her spots.”
Baysek, Bowers, and senior outfielder Mackenzie Webb were Richmond’s three seniors honored before the game. Baysek was responsible for the team’s first run when she brought Bowers — a Florida SouthWestern commit — home with a double in the fourth inning.
“They’re a great group. So much grit about them, they’re not going to give up,” Wallace said. “I told them, ‘Y’all don’t want to remember that you lost to Scotland on Senior Night,’ so this was big for them.”
The Lady Raiders (18-3, 14-0 SAC) had already secured the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and now await their opening-round matchup with Seventy-First — who it defeated 34-1 on the road a week ago — on Tuesday.
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.