ROCKINGHAM — An explosive second inning served as the turning point in Wednesday’s game for the Richmond Rattlers’ varsity baseball team.
Hosting Western Harnett High School in their home opener, the Rattlers used a 13-run second inning to mercy-rule the Pioneers by a final score of 16-4. The outpouring of offense for head coach Ricky Young’s team came a night after scoring just two runs against Lee County High School in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League opener.
The five-inning affair saw the Rattlers rack up 10 hits, with nine of its 10 starting players crossing the plate safely at least one time. Richmond also drew eight walks and took advantage of several Western Harnett errors in the win.
Rising senior right-hander Dallas Cowick started on the hill for Richmond, tossing three innings and giving up four runs (three unearned). He struck out one batter and used his defense behind him to record six flyouts and four groundouts.
Cowick also had a big night at the dish, going 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles and a game-high five runs batted in. Both of his doubles and all of his RBIs were recorded during the second inning.
Coming into the game to pitch the final two innings was fellow rising senior Noah Altman. New to the baseball program, Altman faced just seven batters in two innings, and sat the Pioneers down in order in the fifth to end the game.
“We swung the bat better tonight,” Young commented. “We have some things we need to clean up defensively, but we’ll get there. Offensively, we had better at-bats, and (Western Harnett) kicked the ball around a little, which helped us out.
“We’re expecting Dallas to be a leader for us this summer,” he continued of Cowick. “He played a lot for us this spring and he’s going to have to have a good summer. I was excited for Noah — he was a little nervous at first, but he settled in and it was cool for him to get some experience under his belt.”
Cowick scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first inning after leading off with a walk. He stole second and third base and trotted home when Western Harnett’s catcher airmailed a throw into left field trying to catch him stealing.
The Rattlers’ defense hit a speed bump in the top of the second, which allowed the Pioneers to take a 4-1 lead. Four errors contributed to two of the runs, while a two-RBI single capped the inning before rising junior Trevor Johnson hosed a runner at the plate from left field, seeing catcher Colin Wheeler make a diving tag to stop the bleeding.
A total of 19 batters would come to the plate for Richmond in the bottom of the second inning to break the game wide open. The Rattlers would not only chase starting pitcher Dawson Rogers in the frame, but force Western Harnett to make a second pitching change in the inning.
A Blake Hall walk, followed by a Hunter Hancock single and an error that let Dawson Bryant reach safely, set up a Jaheim Harrington RBI infield single. Rising junior Tony Gathings slapped an RBI single to right field to plate Hancock, and Cowick unloaded with a shot over the left fielder’s head for a two-RBI double to make it 5-4 Richmond.
Rising sophomore Cameron Way mirrored Cowick’s double with one of his own to the same spot in the next at-bat, allowing his pitcher to score. An error at short allowed Way to score and was followed by back-to-back walks to Luke Preslar and Wheeler to load the bases.
A Hall fielder’s choice got the second out of the inning at the plate, but a Hancock walk in the next at-bat scored Preslar. Bryant stepped in next and laced a two-RBI single to center field, scoring Hancock and Hall to give Richmond a 10-0 advantage.
Another walk and an infield single by Gathings loaded the bases for Cowick, who helped his cause with a bases-clearing three-RBI double to the left field fence for the final three runs of the frame.
Richmond would score its final two runs in the bottom of the third, thanks to a Hancock RBI single and another Western Harnett error, which let Hancock cross home plate safely. Cowick, Hall, Hancock, Bryant and Gathings would each score two runs before the final out was recorded.
Rising sophomore Alston Johnson made an athletic double play in the top of the fourth inning, scooping up a ground ball at second base and stepping on the bag before throwing across his body to JD Lampley at first base.
“In the summer there’s a lot of competition on the team,” Young closed. “We have guys battling for playing time at every position, so everyone is fighting to get their chance to play. I tell them to make the most of any opportunity and they did that tonight.”
The Rattlers will return to the diamond Thursday and welcome in Lee County, looking to split the summer series with the Spinners. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.