ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond baseball team’s 12-game win streak highlighted its run through the 2018 season.
It all started with a home win over Hartsville (S.C.) in late March, picked up some steam when senior Jonathan Lee pitched a perfect game versus Hoke County just a day later, and then became something to talk about throughout the team’s title run at the Seahawk Invitational in Hilton Head (S.C.) during Spring Break.
Following that six-game stretch, the Raiders won another half-a-dozen games over the next two weeks.
They held Lumberton scoreless in both games, traveled to non-conference foe Northwest Guilford and won in just five innings, dismantled Seventy-First twice and escaped conference rival Scotland in eight innings.
“We played our best ball of the season during that 12-game period,” head coach Ricky Young said. “We avoided those innings with errors, which got us in big moments the rest of the year, and put everything together like I expected us to.”
The chance to extend the streak to 13 in a row was ruined on Senior Night, however, when the Raiders fell one run short in their second meeting with the Scots. From there, they never really found a rhythm again.
Richmond was upset by Purnell Swett early on in the conference tournament, but performed well enough throughout the regular season to earn a No. 15 seed and home-field advantage in the opening round of the state playoffs.
In the first round, the team was able to “create havoc on the bases” against Davie County and cruised to an 8-2 victory. Seniors Justin Ingram, Drew Loving and Gordon Pihl all brought in runners with an RBI single in the win.
Three days later, though, the Raiders’ season came to an end. They took a two-run lead in the third inning, but made a few costly mistakes late that helped East Forsyth get back into the ball game and steal a 5-2 win in the second round.
“Obviously, we would’ve liked to advance further, we let that game get away from us at East Forsyth, but I enjoyed this team,” Young said. “They worked really hard every day and had really good chemistry.”
Richmond, which finished with an 18-8 overall record, had a nine-man senior class this past season.
Three of them — Lee, Loving and Trey Watkins — were recently named to the inaugural All-Sandhills Athletic Conference Team after combining for 16 wins on the mound. Watkins had the most wins (6) while Lee and Loving each tallied five.
Lee led team in hits, stolen bases, doubles, home runs and batting average — with more than two plate apperances. Loving ended the season with 18 hits, eight RBI and a .305 batting average. Watkins had 11 hits and smacked four doubles.
“Those three made all-conference, but all nine guys were contributors. They worked hard and were good for the program,” Young explained. “We’re going to miss them as people just as much as we will as players … I really do appreciate them.”
Looking forward to next year, Richmond will return a couple of juniors who were recently named to the 2018 Powerade State Games in Jake Ransom (19 hits, 13 RBI, home run) and Cam Carraway (7 hits, 5 RBI, 8 scored runs), and a host of other rising seniors who saw significant minutes this past season.
Alex Anderson and Garet Weigman finished in the team’s top five in hits and runs batted in, Tyler Bass capped his junior campaign with a team-high 18 runs scored and Hunter Parris earned two wins — one being a save — from the mound.
“One thing about this group is that they gained a lot of experience this year. Almost the entire starting lineup (for next season) started at least one time this past year,” Young added. “The biggest question will be that somebody’s going to have to step up and replace those innings (from Lee, Loving and Watkins) on the mound.”
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.