Every pitcher who has ever stepped on the mound strives to go the entire game without giving up a hit or a run, or allowing any of the opposing teams’ batters to reach base, but accomplishing a feat of that magnitude is easier said than done.
That’s why, prior to March 29, there had only been 59 perfect games in the state’s baseball history — dating all the way back to the 1950s — and only one in Richmond Senior High School history, according to the NCHSAA website.
Jonathan Lee, however, did the seemingly impossible three months ago when the Richmond baseball team hosted conference foe Hoke County for the teams’ second meeting. The Bucks got the best of Richmond earlier in the week, but Lee’s performance on the mound helped the Raiders avenge the loss while also putting him in elite company.
Although it was the second perfect game in school history, Lee was the first to do so in seven innings. Former baseball standout Eric Brown threw a perfect game almost exactly 16 years before (March 25, 2002) to lead the Raiders to a 23-0 win over Westover in just five innings.
The night before his flawless performance, Lee helped Richmond snap out of a three-game slump. He would bring home a runner with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning, land a double in the sixth and score the game’s final run in a 6-2 home win over non-conference opponent Hartsville (S.C.).
His arm was well rested heading into the rematch with Hoke County, seeing that he didn’t see the mound against Hartsville or in the team’s first meeting with the Bucks on the road, and that seemed to bode well for what eventually transpired.
Lee retired every Hoke batter he faced on the night, throwing 73 pitches and earning 11 strikeouts in the 3-0 victory. He was helped by a pair of RBI from teammates Alex Anderson and Drew Loving, and an error from the Bucks’ first baseman.
“Couldn’t have did it without y’all boys!,” Lee tweeted in a reply to teammate Tyler Bass.
Although the win over Hartsville started things off, Lee’s perfect game sparked the team’s 12-game winning streak.
The Raiders went down to Hilton Head High School (S.C.) the following week and won all four of their games to claim the Seahawk Invitational title. Lee was named Tournament MVP, right after striking out four batters in six innings in the championship game, and made the All-Tournament team alongside Loving and Trey Watkins.
They got back from Spring Break and won a half-a-dozen more games — winning four of them by mercy rule. They shut out Lumberton and Seventy-First twice, took down Northwest Guilford in five innings and escaped Scotland in overtime.
WHAT WAS SAID
“Proud to be apart of this for my boy! Congrats buddy,” Bass tweeted after Lee’s big night.
“Great performance by Jonathan Lee tonight,” head coach Ricky Young tweeted.
Lee will be suiting up for UNC-Pembroke’s baseball team next spring.
The Braves coaching staff is allowing him to remain a two-way player with the Braves, which Lee said “is rare in college,” after signing his letter of intent last November. The two-time all conference selection will be joining another former Raider in Ethan Baucom, a rising redshirt junior who was named to the NCCSIA All-State Team for the second consecutive year.
The Richmond baseball team is looking to replace Lee, Loving and Watkins — the three main pitchers from this past season — with “more of a comittee” approach next season. Young is getting a good look at his options during the current Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League campaign.
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.