ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond softball team hasn’t forgotten about what happened in the conference tournament championship game last season.
Although Lumberton took a one-run lead at the top of the sixth inning after Madison Canady bombed a two-run homer, the softball gods put Richmond in the perfect position — in the bottom of the seventh — to either push the game into extras or claim the title outright.
Former outfielder Payton Fann was walked to start the seventh, current sophomore infielder Jadyn Johnson hit a sacrifice bunt to move Fann over to second base and then, now-junior shortstop, Savannah Lampley got walked on a full count.
That three-batter sequence gave the Lady Raiders hope, as they now had two runners on — at first and second base — with their best two hitters up next: Owen Bowers, who had just hit a solo shot in the bottom of the fifth; and Greyson Way.
Lumberton’s Morgan Britt, however, did her job on the mound by hitting her spots when facing Bowers and Way, and picked her ninth and 10th strikeouts of the night. And the Lady Pirates were crowned conference tournament champions.
“It definitely was a let down. That’s still in the back of our minds,” head coach Wendy Wallace said. “People say conference tournaments don’t matter, but they do because they help build confidence going into the playoffs. You don’t want to go into the first round and second rounds of the playoffs with a loss fresh on your mind.”
That’s why the Lady Raiders, the conference’s top seed once again, have been doing everything in their power throughout the first two rounds of this year’s tournament to set themselves up for success in the conference title game and beyond.
On Tuesday, they dismantled No. 8 Seventy-First by a score of 29-2 in just three-and-a-half innings. Way, junior ace, went 4-for-4 with a second-innning grand slam. Senior Bri Baysek and freshman Payton Chappell also hit homers in the win.
On Wednesday, in the semifinal, they avenged last year’s title loss with a 12-2 victory over No. 5 Lumberton in just five innings. Baysek and Chappell each sent a two-run shot over the wall in the bottom of the third.
Now, Richmond (20-3) is preparing for a championship battle with No. 2 Jack Britt on Friday. It won both regular-season matchups, but needed a dose of Raider Magic and a couple extra innings to defeat the Lady Buccaneers at home.
The Lady Raiders will need to get their bats on the ball early, similar to how they did Wednesday evening, in order to avoid a last-inning effort that could keep them from winning their third conference title in five years.
“They don’t want to have a repeat of last year,” Wallace added. “They’re hungry and ready to play.”
Richmond’s Bri Baysek (11) and Taylor Parrish (3) high five one another during Wednesday’s semifinal game against Lumberton.
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.