ROCKINGHAM — Just like head coach Ricky Young had hoped, the Richmond baseball team took advantage of what could’ve been its only home game of the 2018 North Carolina High School Athletic Association 4A State Playoffs.
Senior pitcher Trey Watkins threw a complete game, senior catcher Gordon Pihl picked up a team-high three hits in four plate appearances, and the No. 15-seeded Raiders earned a 8-2 win over No. 18 Davie County in the first round on Tuesday.
Junior Cam Carraway scored three runs on the night.
“We were able to put pressure on them and that’s the way we want to play. We were able to create havoc on the bases and it worked out well for us,” Young said.
Davie County (10-12) looked to be in control early, racking up three of its five hits in the first couple of innings and taking a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the second.
Nothing came of junior outfielder Hite Merrifield’s lead-off double at the top of the first inning, but the War Eagles made sure they produced a run after junior outfielder Grayson Keaton hit a one-out single in the second. Junior outfielder Hunter Bowles brought Keaton home with an RBI single that dropped into left field.
Richmond (18-7) wasn’t behind on the scoreboard for long, though, as Watkins’ double to start the bottom of the second inning got the home team’s blood pumping. Tyler Bass would get to first base on a bunt and advance Carraway — who was walked in his first at-bat — to second and then senior Justin Ingram whacked a 2-RBI single to give the team a 2-1 lead.
From there, the Raiders scored six unanswered runs over the next four innings.
Carraway came home for the second time, his first being on Ingram’s two-run base hit, after Davie County committed an error on a throw to third base in the bottom of the fourth. Moments later, junior Alex Anderson raced home while senior Drew Loving was unsuccessfully chased between first and second base.
In the sixth inning, Carraway scored, again, on a fielder’s choice. Loving would follow with a perfectly placed bunt — just a few feet in front of home plate — that the visiting team had trouble getting to and was rewarded with an RBI single. Bass came home from third and Loving was able to get to first base before the War Eagles had a chance to throw him out.
Pihl hit a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to give Richmond an 8-1 advantage. The senior swung his bat with some force Tuesday evening, as he whipped a couple of singles through the defense in the third and fifth innings.
“I thought he had some really good at-bats,” Young said. “Earlier in the year he was pressing a little bit, but I thought he did a good job of relaxing in the spot tonight and he got some good pitches to hit.”
Davie County kept fighting at the top of the seventh inning, getting sophomore catcher Aaron Williams on base with a lead-off single and then scoring the game’s final run with sophomore outfielder Garrett Chandler’s RBI single.
Watkins, however, would put the finishing touches on the Raiders’ win from the mound, earning his third strikeout of the inning — ninth of the night — at the expense of Merrifield.
The senior pitcher walked two batters and gave up two earned runs on five hits in seven innings.
Next up for Richmond is a second-round matchup at No. 2 East Forsyth — who received a bye in the first round — on Friday. It will welcome back senior pitcher Jonathan Lee, who served a two-game suspension after being ejected from the final game of the regular season against Scotland two weeks ago.
“We’ve got to continue playing like we did tonight. Just play the game we want to play,” Young added. “It’ll be nice to have Jonathan back, so we’re looking forward to it.”
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.