ROCKINGHAM — Through the first two games of the 4A state playoffs, Richmond Senior is hurling nothing but zeroes at its opposition.
After Ryan Mercer blanked Jack Britt in the opening round, Nic Bullard followed with a shutout of his own against Hoggard to guide the Raiders into the third round.
Bullard, like Mercer, faced two batters above the minimum and allowed just one hit, while striking out seven in an 8-0 victory Tuesday night at Raider Field.
“It’s a challenge, you have to throw your best game,” Bullard said about pitching in the playoffs. “From the first day of tryouts this year, I knew we would be solid defensively.”
Bullard needed a big play from his defense early in his outing to keep the Vikings off the scoreboard. In the second inning, Hoggard put runners on first and second with one out. Kyle Wallace ripped a ground ball down the third-base line, which James Buie scooped up near the bag. Buie stepped on third and threw across the diamond to compete the double play.
“My instincts kicked in and I wanted to throw the ball over the plate and let them hit it to my defense,” Bullard said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, James is in the right spot with his defense. When I saw the ball was in his glove, I knew it was going to be a double play.”
Richmond’s sophomore left-hander flirted with a no-hitter until allowing a lead-off double to Conner Autry in the top of the fifth inning. After surrendering the lone Vikings’ hit, Bullard settled down and protected a 1-0 lead by striking out the next three batters.
“That was the turning point in the game,” Richmond coach Ricky Young said. “That was a big situation after giving up the double. Nic comes back and gets three strikeouts. He’s a heck of a competitor.”
Following Bullard’s performance in the top half of the inning, Richmond (22-6) broke open the contest by sending 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the frame. The Raiders plated five runs on just three hits, taking advantage of two walks and two hit batters. Bradley Brown had a two-run single in the inning.
“Tonight we got some key hits and laid down some key bunts,” Young said. “We wanted to put pressure on the opposition. We aren’t going to change what we do. We are going to play against the game and the guys have bought into that.
“Right now, it’s all about surviving and advancing.”
Brown finished with three RBIs in the contest, while Buie knocked in two. Drew Butler had two bunt singles for the Raiders and Austin Brower had an RBI-triple in the sixth.
Richmond will travel to New Bern in a third-round contest Friday night. The Bears advanced after defeating Cape Fear 6-3.
Scotland, the only other remaining SEC team in the playoffs, stayed alive with a 2-0 victory over J.H. Rose. The Fighting Scots will host Ashley, which defeated Laney 5-3, Friday night at McCoy Field.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org