ROCKINGHAM — To win a state baseball championship, a school has to record eight wins and right now Richmond Senior has half of them.
After battling through a single-elimination tournament through the first four rounds, the Raiders and Middle Creek will now face off in a best of three series beginning today at 7 p.m.
Richmond coach Ricky Young was ready to make any needed pitching changes during the initial rounds because it was win or go home mentality. Even with a benefit of a three-game series, Young said he doesn’t plan on changing his philosophy.
“We are trying to play to win now,” Young said. “We want to win the first game. I don’t want out guys to start thinking that they have another two games, we want to take them one at a time.”
With that mindset, Young will call on senior right-hander Ryan Mercer to take the mound tonight in the opening contest with the Mustangs. In the playoffs, Mercer has not allowed a run in 15 innings and is 2-0 and picked up the save in the Raiders’ win over Ashley Tuesday night.
Mercer and Richmond’s other starter, Nic Bullard, have combined to allow one run and 13 hits in 28 innings.
Young knows with Bullard more than likely unavailable for tonight’s game, he will have to use another pitcher if Mercer were to run into difficulty.
Among the choices Young will have at his disposal who appeared the mound for the Raiders this spring are: Austin Brower, Bradley Brown, James Buie and Jacob Sears.
“We have a deep staff,” Young said. “I have confidence in them, they just haven’t had to pitch yet in the playoffs.”
While the Raiders (24-6) have been solid in the field and on the mound, the offense has been more miss than hit in the last two games. Richmond notched only an infield single by Drew Butler against Ashley, but managed to score the winning run on an error and two wild pitches. In the New Bern victory, the Raiders took advantage of a walk, a hit batter and an error to plate the only runs of the game.
“I hope we break out of it tomorrow night,” Young said. “We have guys that can hit, but we have seen some really good pitching in the playoffs. I expect the same thing in this series, but it would be nice to get a bunch of hits.”
Middle Creek (22-6) was aided by an error in its win over Millbrook Tuesday night. Jimmy Boyd raced home with the game-winning run when the Wildcats’ right fielder attempted to throw Boyd out at third after a single by Keenan Herring. The ball ended up sailing into foul territory, allowing Boyd to score.
Young expects the Mustangs to be similar to his squad.
“They are an athletic team and they want to get people moving on the bases,” Young said. “There are like us, they have a righty and a lefty at the top of their staff.”
Game to air on WAYN
Radio station WAYN 900 AM will broadcast the East Region championship series between Richmond Senior and Middle Creek. Today’s game will air at 7 p.m. with Rick Lipford providing the play-by-play.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org