ROCKINGHAM — Richmond Senior had left the bases loaded in the first two innings and had only scored one run.
Things looked bleak again in the seventh with the bases full of Raiders and two strikes on Hunter Parks.
But with one swing of the bat, fortunes changed.
Parks sent an 0-2 pitch from Ashley’s Robyn Kerr over the fence in left-center for a walk-off grand slam home run to not only keep Richmond undefeated in 28 games, but into the fourth round of the state 4A playoffs.
Richmond will face another unbeaten team — Cape Fear. The Colts (24-0) shut out Pine Forest 3-0.
“I was scared to death,” Parks said. “I knew I had to protect the plate. When I hit it I was saying go, go, go. I have never hit a walk-off grand slam before in my entire life.”
Parks admitted to struggling at the plate before the game. Parks went 2 of 3 with a single in the sixth to go along with a grand slam.
“I haven’t had a good hit in a while,” Parks said. “I have been working hard in practice.”
After scoring the game’s first run in the second, Richmond struggled to take advantage of opportunities to break the game open. It stranded at least one base runner in every inning except the fifth and seventh. Richmond also had a runner thrown out at the plate to end the fourth inning. In all, Richmond left nine runners on base.
“Guess what we will be working on in practice — bunting and hitting with runners on base,” Richmond coach Wendy Wallace said. “The further you go in the playoffs, you have to execute because you are going to face better pitching.”
The Raiders had a handful of opportunities to try and move runners over with a sacrifice bunt in the game, but were only able to put one down. Haleigh Denham had a sacrifice in the second, but was safe on the play when Kerr’s throw was in the dirt.
“Earlier in the year we didn’t need it because we were swinging hot bats,” Wallace said. “We have to execute our bunts as we go further.”
Summer Jacobs earned the win in the pitching circle, allowing eight hits, one earned run and striking out nine. She escaped two big jams in the final two innings to keep Ashley at bay. With one out and runners on first and third in the sixth, Jacobs coaxed Jordan Smith to ground out to third and ended the threat when pinch hitter Hannah Boring flew out to right.
In the seventh, Jacobs struck out Schae Dickson and Bailey Williams, Ashley’s No. 3 and 4 hitter, with the bases loaded to set up Parks’ heroics.
“I can’t say enough about those two strikeouts,” Wallace said. “Those were huge by Summer.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.