Even though their seasons are just beginning, the Richmond Senior softball and baseball teams are both off to 2-1 starts this spring.
And they have gone about it in different ways.
Ricky Young’s crew has relied on its pitching and defense, while Wendy Wallace’s team has had some thunder in its bats.
Coming into the season, Young knew his Raiders weren’t going to be able out-score the opposition teams consistently, so his focus has been on playing “small ball.”
Richmond has allowed four runs this season and Young has used six different pitchers in these contests. Last season, Young mainly used a four-man pitching staff in a run to the East Regional final series.
The “small ball” philosophy paid off in last week’s 2-1 win over Charlotte Christian as both of Richmond’s runs scored as a result of squeeze plays involving Drew Butler.
The first tally came after Jeremy Smith was hit by a pitch, stole second and moved to third on a balk. Following a strikeout, Young called for Butler to sacrifice Smith home. Butler put down the bunt and was able to beat the throw to first for a run-scoring single.
Brandon Gibson led off the bottom of the seventh with a pinch triple. Young was faced with a dilemma — have Butler swing away or put down another bunt. Young opted for another squeeze play and once again Butler was up to the task as the Raiders knocked off the Knights.
After the contest, Young said he debated waiting to call for the bunt until the next batter, cleanup hitter Bradley Brown, was at the plate. He meant it because at a practice earlier in the week, Young had the team working extensively on its bunting, especially the squeeze play. Young told the players at the time, he could call on anyone in the lineup to lay down a sacrifice bunt.
Even though Richmond routed Anson Tuesday, expect more nail-biters rather than blowouts the rest of the year for Young and his crew.
On the other side of the spectrum is Wallace and her Raiders, which have been scoring runs in bunches and flashing some power while doing it.
Four players have smashed home runs for Richmond in the last two games. Hunter Parks and Bailey Coulthard homered in the team’s win over Eastern Randolph. Cierra Bowden and Jessica Steen matched them two days later with home runs of their own against Southwest Randolph.
Wallace isn’t surprised by the power surge in her lineup because following Richmond’s 8-2 loss at Jack Britt, the team smashed nine home runs the next day in practice. She said they just needed to do it in a game.
The biggest question mark coming into the season was going to be in the pitching circle following the graduation of Casey Snead. Wallace has started Summer Jacobs and Parks so far this season and is hoping one of them will step up to take over as the staff’s ace.
Until this happens, Wallace and her team could be forced to win several 9-8 shootouts down the road.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @scgolfer.