ROCKINGHAM — As expected, the Richmond softball team was rewarded by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for its performance throughout the regular season and conference tournament.
Richmond (21-3) received the No. 1 overall seed and a first-round bye in the West bracket of this year’s 4A State Playoffs. It’s the first time since being in the West that the program has been the classification’s top seed, which means — if it continues to win — the team won’t have to travel until the Western Regional Finals.
“We still have to perform at home just like we would on the road, but it cuts the traveling time out,” head coach Wendy Wallace said. “And we’re comfortable at home, so hopefully we’ll have a lot of fans come out and cheer the girls on.
“It’s good to see all their hard work pay off,” she added.
The Lady Raiders will face the winner of Tuesday’s first-round matchup between No. 16 Hough (13-6) and No. 17 Independence (13-8). Both teams are coming off losses in the semifinal round of their respective conference tournaments.
Wallace says she hopes to play the second-round game on Friday, but both teams will have to agree on the date.
“We just have to do what we do, which is go in and get hits early. We want to be able to score often and score early, which will take pressure off our defense and off Greyson (Way),” Wallace said. “As far as defense goes, we have to play solid, not make any errors and get ahead early in the count when we’re pitching.”
Richmond, currently on a 10-game win streak, is coming off a victory in the Sandhills Athletic Conference Tournament championship game this past Friday. It jumped out to an early lead and held on for a 7-2 victory over Jack Britt.
Wallace and the Lady Raiders are hoping to use that momentum, prepared with the motivation from last year’s loss to North Davidson in the Western Regional Finals, to fuel them to the first state title in program history.
They understand, however, that getting back to the regional finals — as well as advancing to, and winning, the State Championship series — isn’t guaranteed. The work must be put in to reach that ultimate goal.
“That’s our goal. That’s what we said we wanted from the first day that we started practice,” Wallace said after Richmond won the Sandhills Athletic Conference Tournament last Friday. “We have to take it one game at a time and make sure we put all of our focus on who we’ve got to play first. We can’t overlook anybody.”
The Sandhills Athletic Conference had three other teams make the state playoffs: Hoke County, Jack Britt, Lumberton and Purnell Swett.
Purnell Swett (15-7) is the only one of the three that will compete in the West bracket with Richmond. The Lady Rams received a No. 14 seed and are scheduled to host No. 19 Ardrey Kell (16-7) in the first round.
Jack Britt (18-5) got the No. 8 overall seed in the East bracket and also has a bye in the first round. It will face the winner of No. 9 Middle Creek (14-4) and No. 24 Athens Drive (4-18) in the second round.
Lumberton (15-9), the East’s No. 15 seed, will face off against No. 18 Rolesville (11-8) in the first round. Hoke County (15-8) madae the East bracket as the No.1 6 seed and is set to host No. 17 Holly Springs (8-12).
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.