Editor’s note — The Richmond County Daily Journal will look back at the top moments from the Richmond Senior athletic department this season.
WILMINGTON — With the backdrop of a small passenger plane making touch-and-go landings at a nearby runway, the outcome of the Richmond-Ashley contest was also very much touch and go.
After tying the game on a groundout in the fourth, Richmond took advantage of a hit batsman, a walk, an error and two wild pitches one inning later to escape with a 2-1 victory and advance to the 4A East Region final series.
Richmond starting pitcher Nic Bullard started the game-winning rally with one out when he was hit in the back by a Corey Irwin pitch. After a pop out, pinch runner Chalin Williamson advanced to third when Ethan Baucom struck out, but Ashley catcher Chance Shepard’s throw to first bounced into right field for an error. One batter later, Williamson scored the game-winner on another wild pitch.
“This is definitely a testament to our guys not giving up,” Richmond coach Ricky Young said. “All season we have been relying on our defense and pitching. I preach to the guys to do what we do and not worry about the other team.”
Against the Eagles, the Raiders faced their first deficit in the postseason and were struggling offensively. Richmond finished with one hit in the game, an infield single by Drew Butler in the fourth. Ashley wasn’t faring much better against the Richmond pitching staff, which surrendered its first run of the postseason in the third inning, recording three hits in the contest.
Bullard ran into trouble in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a lead-off single to Koty Howard, prompting Young to call on Ryan Mercer to close out the game. After a sacrifice bunt moved Howard into scoring position, Mercer walked Brian Stokes. Mercer settled down to strike out Corey Irvin for the second out of the frame. Christian Wolfe was hit by a pitch to load the bases to bring Chris Hicks to the plate. Hicks had given the Eagles the lead in the third with a run-scoring single.
Mercer fired a fastball and Hicks pounded it into the ground resulting in a high-hopper to short. Butler fielded the ball cleanly, tossed it to second to force Wolfe and send the Raiders to the region finals.
“After I hit the batter I thought I needed to catch my breath,” Mercer said. “Coach Young preaches composure on the mound and I had to get myself together.
“I told myself I needed to get a ground ball. I held my breath for a second after he hit it. It was a tough play, but we work on that everyday in practice.”
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com