ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond baseball team was unable to sustain its hot start on Tuesday night and it resulted in an unexpected first-round exit from the Sandhills Athletic Conference Tournament.
Purnell Swett battled back from a two-run deficit to force extras, took the lead on Troy McGirt’s RBI single at the top of the 10th inning, and then held on for a 4-3 victory on Richmond’s home field.
Tuesday’s defeat was the second of back-to-back losses for the No. 3 seeded Raiders (17-7), who were on a 12-game winning streak prior to them losing to rival Scotland in their regular-season finale last week. They will now have to wait to see where they will be seeded in the NCHSAA 4A State Playoffs — which begins next week.
Richmond took an early advantage, after giving up a run, in the bottom of the first inning on senior Gordon Pihl’s RBI single and junior Garet Weigman’s 2-RBI double. Pihl’s base hit brought in senior Drew Loving — who singled on the team’s second at-bat — and tied the game at 1-all. Weigman cranked one deep to usher home junior Jake Ransom — who followed Loving’s single with one of his own — and Pihl, and give the home team a 3-1 lead after one.
Things would fall quiet from then on, however, as neither team was able to score a run over the next three innings.
Purnell Swett (10-4) broke the drought at the top of the fifth inning when junior Chandler Brayboy hit his second RBI single of the night to bring the away team within one run. The Rams gave up a one-out single to Loving at the bottom of the fifth, but made up for it with a double play on Ransom’s hit that was caught in between first and second base.
Freshman Ethan Wilkins came up big with an RBI single in the sixth that tied the game 3-3.
The Raiders experienced a quick three-and-out at the bottom of the sixth, but was able to put pressure on the Rams in the seventh. Senior Zack Hinson was hit by a pitch and then watched as his base runner, sophomore Jahan Jones, moved to second and third base on Tyler Bass’ sacrifice bunt and Brett Young’s sacrifice single, respectively.
They couldn’t capitalize on the good position, though, as senior Alex Anderson hit a fly ball into the field that silenced any chance of the home team winning on a walk-off run in regulation.
Both teams went three-and-out in the eighth and ninth innings, but Richmond’s decision to walk Brayboy at the top of the 10th gave Purnell Swett a chance to put McGirt at the plate — and he delivered. McGirt’s single, which was his team-high third hit of the night, brought home Brayboy from second in game-winning fashion.
For Richmond, senior Trey Watkins pitched a solid 9 ⅔ innings, allowing four earned runs on 11 hits and ended the night with six strikeouts. Loving came in as relief and finished out the 10th inning on the mound.
The No. 6 seed Rams will travel to Jack Britt on Wednesday for a second-round matchup.
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.