ROCKINGHAM — For two straight years the Richmond Senior baseball team was knocking on the door.
This spring, it finally broke through and knocked it down.
After being eliminated in the 4A East Region finals the previous two seasons, Richmond overcame Millbrook in three games to make its first championship series appearance since 2000.
Unlike the 2013 season when the Raiders reeled off 28 wins in a row after losing their opener, this year’s squad struggled to find its footing until Spring Break.
Richmond dropped to 10-6-1 overall and 6-2 in Southeastern Conference play after losing at Lumberton. There was a three-way tie atop the SEC standings and things could have turn bleak for Richmond.
However, the Spring Break trip to Shalotte for West Brunswick’s Touchstone Energy Beach Diamond Invitational turned things around for the Raiders.
Richmond edged South Stanly in the opener, slipped past North Brunswick and held off a late rally from the host school to take home the championship.
Those victories sparked the team to two more wins and pushed the Raiders to their second consecutive SEC regular season title. Richmond added the conference tournament championship with victories over Scotland and Pinecrest to roll into the playoffs riding a seven-game winning streak.
“We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to try and match the 28-game winning streak,” senior catcher Bradley Brown said. “In conference, we hit a bump in the road. Our goals were to win the conference, win the conference tournament, go deep in the playoffs and win a state championship…winning 28 games in a row was not our goal.”
Richmond continued its hot play in the postseason by taking down West Johnston, D.H. Conley and South Central at home. It was forced to go on the road in the fourth round. Richmond knocked out J.H. Rose to advance to its third straight East Region championship series.
Millbrook snapped Richmond’s 11-game winning streak in the opening game of the East Region finals. The Raiders recovered with a 2-0 victory at Millbrook in Game 2 and a 2-1 win in the decisive contest at Raider Field.
In the 4A championship series at UNC Greensboro Stadium, West Forsyth pulled out a 6-4 victory in Game 1. Richmond needed a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to even the series. Ethan Baucom homered to tie the contest and Cody Leviner had the game-winning single four batters later.
The Titans captured their first baseball championship with a 6-3 win over the Raiders in Game 3.
After the loss to West Forsyth, Richmond coach Ricky Young talked about the impact his nine seniors made on the program.
“It’s going to be hard to replace these guys,” Young said. “They had a lot of wins. They helped establish our program. They gave me everything they had every time out.”
Editor’s note - This is the final part of a five-part series looking at last year’s top sports stories from Richmond Senior.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.