APEX — There was a bit of good news mixed in with the bad for Richmond Senior Thursday night.
The Raider pitching staff which had allowed one run through their first four playoffs games was battered for back-to-back three-run innings by Middle Creek in the opening game of the 4A East Region final series. The Mustangs finished with 10 hits and posted a 7-0 victory.
The good news for Richmond is that it was just Game 1 and they are still alive to play another day. Game 2 of the best of three series is slated for 7 p.m. today at Raider Field.
“It’s just one game which is a good thing about a series,” Richmond coach Ricky Young said. “I guess we play better under pressure.”
Richmond (24-7) managed three hits against Middle Creek starter Jimmy Boyd. The right-hander struck out five in the complete game shutout.
“I really just kinda stuck with the fastball,” Boyd said.
Through the first six innings Boyd limited the Raiders to one hit, an Austin Brower single in the second. Jacob Sears and Brower had back-to-back two-out hits in the seventh before Boyd coaxed James Buie to ground out to third to end the contest.
“I started losing my legs at the end,” Boyd said. “I have been pretty lazy lately and haven’t been doing my running.”
In addition to his performance on the mound, Boyd shined at the plate for the Mustangs (23-6). The senior went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three runs batted in.
Boyd snapped Ryan Mercer’s 17-inning scoreless streak with a two-run double off the 360-foot sign in right field in the third inning.
“I was trying to do too much in the last game (Millbrook),” Boyd said. “I took a simple approach with an easy swing and tried to hit it back up the middle.”
Mercer was removed in the bottom of the fourth with a leg injury. Mercer recorded the final out of the top of the fourth, while running to first, the senior fell to the ground clutching the back of his right leg.
“He says it hurts him,” Young said about the extent of Mercer’s injury.
After recording a total of three hits in wins over New Bern and Ashley, Young was expecting a better showing from his offense against the Mustangs.
“I’m not happy with our approach at the plate,” Young said. “Everyone has been saying we can’t hit, but you don’t win 24 games without being able to hit the baseball. We just need to be more focused at the plate.”
With Game 2 shifting to Raider Field, Young hopes his team is able to bounce back to keep the series alive for a return visit to Middle Creek.
“We learned some things tonight,” Young said. “The biggest thing is we need to locate our pitches better. It just comes down to location. It’s just one game, we need to refocus.”
The Raiders are scheduled to start Nic Bullard, while the Mustangs are expected to counter with Sal Savarese.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org