ROCKINGHAM — With two outs in the top of the second, Mikey Steele made a long run after Alan Watson’s fly ball down the right-field line but just missed making the catch.
Steele casually picked the ball up thinking it was foul before he realized the umpires ruled it fair. Steele hurried a throw to home, but not before the two Pinecrest runners on base scored the game’s first runs.
After a brief discussion, the umpires reversed their decision and called the ball foul. Watson struck out on the next pitch and the Patriots never threatened to dent the plate again as Richmond pulled away for a 6-0 Southeastern Conference victory Tuesday night at Raider Field.
“It was foul … the umpires made the right call,” Steele sheepishly said after the game. “I was just playing it like it was foul then I looked up and saw the runners were still running around.”
Richmond coach Ricky Young said the umpires weren’t discussing about if the ball was fair or foul, but if Steele touched the ball in fair territory.
“He didn’t,” Young said. “I wish he would have just made the catch instead.”
After the two runs were erased from the board, Richmond starter Ryan Mercer settled down. Mercer allowed three baserunners in the final five innings and two of those reached on errors. The senior right-hander had four strikeouts in the complete-game shutout.
“We had never beaten Pinecrest since I have been here,” Mercer said. “This was a big win for us because it moves us into second. We finished third last year and had to play three games in a week.”
Bradley Brown was 3-for-3 with three RBIs to lead the Raiders’ offensive attack. Jeremy Smith scored three runs in the “Swinging for Pink” game. Smith’s mother, Caryla, was the inspiration for the contest after she was diagnosed with breast cancer just before the season started.
The victory, the ninth straight for the Raiders since a loss to Scotland on April 2, vaults Richmond into second place in the SEC behind Scotland, while Pinecrest fell to third with the loss. The Fighting Scots clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament after a 6-4 win over Lumberton.
Richmond will play host to Scotland, while Hoke County will travel to Pinecrest. If the Raiders lose Thursday and the Patriots win, then both teams will finish in a tie for the No. 2 seed, which could be broken by a coin flip.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com