ROCKINGHAM — When Richmond Senior’s top two pitchers looked at their statistics, they both laughed and couldn’t believe their eyes.
Nic Bullard and Ryan Mercer are a combined 12-3 on the season with 127 strikeouts in 109 innings and both have ERAs under 0.78.
“I couldn’t imagine it when I saw how tough the schedule was,” said Mercer. “We have been good defensively all season. Coach (Ricky Young) tells us to pitch to contact and let my defense do the work. It’s been working so far.
“I knew I was having a good year, but I didn’t know I was having a really good year. It’s surprising actually.”
Bullard was shocked to see his stat line and the impact he has made as a sophomore in his first season on the varsity.
“I probably would have have told you that you’re crazy if you showed me this before the season,” Bullard said. “I set a few goals for myself because it’s important to set goals for yourself. I don’t want to get big-headed about this, but I sit back and think I still have two more years.
“I’ve never been overpowering. I’m no Dillon Maples by any means.”
While Bullard and Mercer were surprised at their success, Young said he and the coaching staff saw the potential in their aces.
“We expected Ryan to have a big season,” Young said. “He got some valuable experience last season in some big games and he has worked really hard to be able to throw three quality pitches for strikes in any count.
“We knew Nic had the potential to have a good season because he is left-handed and has a lot of movement on his fastball but he didn’t have any varsity experience. He has shown a lot of maturity on the mound this season and we expect him to just get better the next two years.”
Both Bullard and Mercer downplay their efforts in leading the Raiders to a 20-6 overall record and a second-place finish in the Southeastern Conference. They believe the opposition thought this was going to be a down year for Richmond.
“I think everybody underestimated us,” Mercer said. “After we lost all of our seniors last year, we didn’t have a big guy and everybody started to underestimate us. And that made us dangerous.”
“Nobody is a big dog on the team,” Bullard said. “We’re a scrappy bunch. We have great team chemistry and I love it when people underestimate us.”
The Raiders open the 4A state playoffs at 7 p.m. Friday at home against Jack Britt.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org