ROCKINGHAM — The summer is generally a time to take it easy and prepare for the upcoming school year.
Not so for the Richmond baseball program.
The varsity team clinched a berth in next week’s Central Carolinas Scholastic Summer Baseball League playoffs with its 3-0 victory over Purnell Swett Monday night. Richmond is tied with Scotland for first place in the Deep South division with the top two seeds advancing.
Earlier in the day, the Raiders’ junior varsity team knocked off the Rams to improve to 11-2 on the season, with today’s contest against Purnell Swett to close out the summer season.
Richmond varsity coach Ricky Young credits his young pitching staff for helping to overcome the loss of several key offensive contributors from the spring.
“This team, we are pitching very well,” Young said. “Plus we are playing solid defense. We lost a lot of solid hitters, but these pitchers know how to pitch.”
While the summer league is not an indicator of how a team will perform once the high school season rolls back around, Young takes these games into account when selecting his varsity roster in February.
“This is like an extended tryout,” Young said. “The younger and older players have shown us what they have. If you are going to play, you might as well play to win. If you accept losing, then you don’t do the little things it takes to win. So, if you’re going to play in a league, you might as well try to make the playoffs.”
Entering his third season at the helm of the Raiders baseball program, Young understands that these players have been in his system for their high school career.
“Most of these guys have bought into our style on the mound, in the field and at the plate,” Young said. “Our thing was to get some of the leaders to buy into it. These guys know what is expected of them and what is demanded of them.”
With Monday’s victory, the Raiders will have to do some scoreboard watching to see where they will begin the playoffs next week. If Richmond wins the division, then it will open the postseason at Western Harnett against the No. 2 team from the Southwest. With a No. 2 seed, the Raiders would face the top seed from the Central at Southern Lee.
Starts with the junior varsity team
Before a player can make the leap to the varsity squad, they have to become familiar with the Raider way of playing baseball. And this is where Jason Norton and the rest of the junior varsity coaching staff come into a player’s life.
Norton begins the process of teaching the newcomers to the program bunt coverage, pickoff plays and other things that Young will come to expect if they get to the varsity level.
These things aren’t completely covered because of the summer rules only allow games, not practices. The only time Norton or Young can discuss how a certain play needs to be executed is in the few minutes after the game.
“These kids have played baseball since they were like 5,” Norton said. “They can field it, throw it and hit it, but they don’t know the game. They have been using their talent. We have some of the things in, it’s enough to get us by.”
As Norton begins to lay the ground work, he stresses to his players that Richmond isn’t out to just win the conference title.
“We’re here to win state championships,” Norton said. “We aren’t here to just beat Scotland or Pinecrest. All of their lives they have heard nothing except about Richmond County football, basketball and baseball. We want to continue that tradition.”
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