ROCKINGHAM — For Richmond Senior baseball coach Ricky Young it is all about “surviving and advancing” at this point in the season.
Despite Richmond stopping West Johnston 6-3 in the first round of the state 4A playoffs, Young was less than pleased following the game.
“Our intensity level was awful,” Young said. “West Johnston is a good team and they are well-coached, but our intensity level went away after the first inning. We have to realize the finality of the playoffs.”
Richmond (18-6-1) scored five times in the first inning and chased West Johnston starter Thomas Coggburn after just five hitters. Ethan Baucom had a two-run double and Matt Pettit added an RBI-single in the frame.
From that point on, Young believed his team hit the brakes and coasted to the win.
“We had a lot of mental errors,” Young said. “Far too many for a team as experienced as we are. Being experience can be a good and a bad thing. I guess we thought it was over when we got up. We have to keep the intensity level up. I will make sure of that.”
Senior third baseman James Buie echoed his coach's feelings and added the team has to remember last season's run to the East Region final series. Richmond trailed Hoggard 5-0 before stepping into the batter's box. The Raiders rallied for a 16-6 third-round win.
“It was like everyone was dead,” Buie said. “Bradley (Brown), some other guys and I tried to get them up, but they were sitting on the bench. We came out ready to play and then we went flat. I guess we thought we had it in the bag.”
For four innings Richmond appeared to have the game well in hand as starting pitcher Cody Leviner was flirting with a no-hitter and had allowed only a walk and a hit batter.
Then the momentum started to shift in the fifth. Dalton List reached on an error and moved to second on a ground out. Jayce Stephenson singled to send List to third. Tony Mack scored List with the Wildcats' first run on a single to right.
The Raiders responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning on a Taylor McLean single to score Buie.
West Johnston (14-8) made things even more interesting with two runs in the sixth to trim the deficit to 6-3. Dylan McLamb had a two-out two-run single in the frame.
“They just got the bats on the ball and found some holes,” Leviner said.
The junior right-hander allowed five hits, two earned runs and struck out eight in six innings of work.
“Cody pitched a great game,” Young said. “His body language was getting bad.”
Young put in his ace Nic Bullard to slam the door in the seventh, but it nearly backfired. Bullard walked Mack to open the frame before striking out Alex Mattes looking. Bullard issued another base on balls, this time to Michael Blevins to put runners on first and second with one out.
Bullard and Leviner, who moved to short after pitcher, combined to pick off Mack at second for the second out. Then Bullard closed out the win and earned the save by striking out Sterling Atkinson.
“It's survive and advance,” Young said.
Richmond will face D.H. Conley in a second round matchup 7 p.m. Friday at Raider Field. Conley advanced following its 7-6 win over Jack Britt Tuesday.
In other baseball games involving Southeastern Conference schools: Hoggard eliminated Lumberton 5-1, while Pinecrest and Ashley were deadlocked at 6 in the bottom of the ninth at press time. In softball action, Hoggard blanked Pinecrest 2-0.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.