ROCKINGHAM — The Richmond softball team’s run through the 2018 season featured numerous broken records, home runs and wins, and another trip to the NCHSAA 4A Western Regional Finals — this time as the No. 1 overall seed.
It was another near-flawless regular season, as Richmond only lost three games prior to the state playoffs. It would go on a eight-game winning streak following the season-opening loss to Marlboro Academy (S.C.), win three straight after dropping a game at West Stanly, and then finish the final stretch before the conference tournament with seven in a row.
The Lady Raiders would sweep through the Sandhills Athletic Conference Tournament, winning their second tournament title in three years, and then put on a hitting clinic in their first three games of the state playoffs — racking up 11 home runs during that span — in order to extend the streak to 13 straight victories.
In Game 1 of the Western Regional Finals matchup with South Caldwell, however, Richmond’s bats didn’t do as much damage — partially due to the Spartans making plays on its deep-hit balls — and the team fell behind in the series early.
The girls got back to swinging and moving players around base in Game 2 and took what seemed to be a comfortable five-run lead heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. But a few big hits from South Caldwell and some controversial calls from the umpire in the bottom half aided in the Spartans scoring six runs and eventually grabbing a 10-9 win.
And the Lady Raiders’ season ended in the Final Four for the second straight season.
“They’re a good hitting team,” Wallace said of South Caldwell. “And when you’ve got to throw it across the middle of the plate, good teams are gonna hit.”
Richmond, which finished with a 24-5 overall record, set new program records for the most runs scored (34), most RBI (28) and most players with multiple runs scored (9) in a win over conference foe Seventy-First in April. It also broke the program record for most home runs (6) in a single game against Lake Norman in the third round of the playoffs.
Junior Taylor Parrish’s grand slam against South Caldwell at the top of the third inning in Game 2 tied the state’s single-season home run record (55) that was set by Madison High School back in 2014.
Senior catcher Owen Bowers is now the program’s all-time leader in homers (32) and freshman infielder Paige Ransom is the new record holder for most bombs hit by a freshman (11) — which was set by junior ace Greyson Way two seasons ago.
“They swung the bat well all year,” Wallace said last Thursday. “They go up there looking for their pitches. They don’t get cheated when they’re swinging at the plate.”
Bowers is a part of this year’s senior class with teammates Bri Baysek, center fielder, and Mackenzie Webb, left fielder.
Baysek was third on the team in both hits (42) and runs scored (37) this past season and finished fifth with seven home runs. Webb was a rotational hitter in the lineup, racking up three RBI on three hits — two of those hits being doubles.
Bowers, who will be playing at Florida SouthWestern State College next year, started the season slower than usual but picked things up in the final stretch, hitting six home runs in the last seven games in order to end with 10 homers on 29 hits. She had a .988 fielding percentage on the season with 231 put outs and 14 assists.
“Other than the mechanical stuff with my swing, I think I’ve been more confident at the plate,” Bowers said earlier this month. “I just have to have that mindset that I can beat (the pitcher) every time I’m up.”
Way, in her first year inside the circle on the varsity level, was the only Lady Raider to throw a pitch all season.
She would give up 49 earned runs on 121 hits and tally 252 strikeouts — the most in the state — in 177.1 innings. Way threw a no-hitter against Pinecrest early in the season and did so again against Hickory Ridge in the fourth round of the state playoffs.
As a batter, the junior finished with 43 hits, a team-best 41 RBI and a .443 batting average. She had 12 doubles on the season and smacked eight home runs — hitting a grand slam at Seventy-First earlier this month.
“It feels good to be able to be a leader on the team … and just help my team as much as I can,” Way said back in March.
For the second straight year, junior shortstop Savannah Lampley led Richmond in runs scored (56), hits (53), stolen bases (36) and batting average (.535). Those 54 scored runs were more than anyone else in the state while the 36 stolen bases tied Lampley with Red Springs’ Kiera Bryant for eighth place.
Parrish went from zero hits last season to 34 hits and four home runs this season, sophomore infielder Kayla Hawkins tied Bowers with 31 hits on the season and knocked out a third-best nine homers, fellow sophomores Jadyn Johnson and Madison Jordan were consistent at the bottom half of the lineup, and freshmen Payton Chappell and Paige Ransom continued the program’s tradition by showing they weren’t afraid of the big stage.
Chappell capped Richmond’s comeback victory against Scotland on Senior Night with a walk-off, two-run single down the third-base line with the team facing two outs. It only took Ransom four games to hit the first of her team-best 11 dingers.
The Richmond softball team won the conference’s regular season and tournament title, earned the West Bracket’s No. 1 overall seed and advanced to the Western Regional Finals this past season. The Lady Raiders broke at least four single-game program records and tied the state record for most home runs in a single season (55).
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.