SOUTHERN PINES — Starting a three-game week on the road against the reigning 4A East regional champions, the Richmond Raider baseball team picked up a pivotal Sandhills Athletic Conference win.
Facing Pinecrest High School, the Raiders used a combination of power hitting and efficient pitching when needed to hold onto a 10-8 win.
The Raiders scored all of their runs through the first four innings, starting with two runs in the first. They added three runs in the second, four runs in the third and a solo tally in the fourth.
Collecting eight hits as a team for the second game in a row, head coach Rob Ransom said a fast start was helpful on the road.
“We swung the bat well in the early part of the game and then dug our fingernails in late to hold on,” he said. “It was a good team effort and we got some great pitching out of James Eason.
“I thought we played good defense all around, but there were some mistakes we still need to fix. But we had timely hits tonight and hits with base runners on, which was big. Mason (Murray) hit a pinch-hit grand slam that really broke it open.”
Richmond opened with two runs in the first off starting pitcher Noah Arnette, beginning with junior Isaac Hinshaw’s RBI double to center, scoring junior Camron Seagraves (leadoff single).
Hinshaw moved to third on a wild pitch and in the next at-bat, senior Ashton Phifer beat out an infield single to third, scoring Hinshaw.
Starting on the mound for the Raiders was Eason, who went 5.0 innings and gave up seven runs (two earned) on two hits and four strikeouts. Pinecrest tied the game with two outs in the first on a pair of passed balls.
To start the second, junior Zaviar Lowry had a leadoff single and junior Cain Hunsucker reached safely after being plunked by Arnette. Seagraves loaded the bases with a single to right.
Stepping in next was senior Ethan Clayton, who kept his swing in stride with a 2-RBI double to center. Racing home were Lowry and courtesy runner Javian Drake to make it 4-2. With just one away, Seagraves and Clayton were in scoring position.
Eason smacked a line drive single to center field, recording an RBI to make it a three-run lead and ending Arnette’s night on the mound.
In the bottom of the second, Eason sat the Patriots (5-2, 0-1 SAC) down in order.
With relief pitcher Josh Slade (1.0 IP, 3 earned runs) on the mound in the top of the third, Richmond loaded the bases with three of the first four batters. Hinshaw (walk), Phifer (hit-by-pitch) and Lowry (walk) were on base for Murray.
The sophomore, who is unable to play the field due to an injury, got the green light to step into the box against relief pitcher Addison Roth (1.2 IP, 2 runs, 1 hit).
On Roth’s first offering, Murray squared it up and powered a grand slam over the wall in left field for his first career varsity dinger. The shot over the short porch made it a 9-2 lead.
The Patriots got a run back in the bottom half thanks to an error on a Hunter Huneycutt ground ball, allowing J.C. Woolard to score.
Richmond’s final run of the game came in the top of the fourth with two outs. Phifer put another ball in play and reached on an error, seeing Clayton (walk) score from third.
Eason worked out of a bases-loaded jam with minimal damage in the home half, giving up a run on a passed ball. With runners in scoring position, he got a fly ball from Woolard lifted to left field, where sophomore Landon Taylor made the final out.
Pinecrest’s fourth pitcher of the game, Bryant Kimbrell, entered in the fifth and tossed the final three innings. He allowed no hits and no runs, while striking out six batters.
Eason faced just four batters in the bottom of the fifth, but saw his night come to an end when he loaded the bases on the first three batters in the sixth.
Senior Ethan Locklear cleaned up the final two innings, giving up just one earned run. Pinecrest scored four runs in the sixth on a wild pitch, a passed ball, a Woolard RBI groundout and a Huneycutt sacrifice fly.
Both teams’ pitchers retired the side in order in the seventh frame to end the game.
“This was a big win for us early in the year on the road against a good conference team,” Ransom said. “We know (Pinecrest) is the favorite in our conference because they have a lot of returners.
“I was really pleased to see a lot of effort and character from our guys to get the win.”
The Raiders (5-1, 2-1 SAC) will host the Patriots on Friday at 7 p.m. That will be followed by a road game at West Stanly High School on Saturday.
JV Raiders drop first game of season
Playing on their home field on Tuesday, the junior varsity Raiders suffered their first loss of the season 10-2 to Pinecrest.
Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth, the JV Raiders scored both of their runs in that inning. Evan Hodges (single) scored on a passed ball and an RBI single from Brooks Calhoun scored Jeremiah Ritter (single).
The JV Raiders registered just four hits, all singles, from Calhoun, Hodges, Ritter and Riley Brown.
Pinecrest added three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to put the game out of reach.
Going four innings to start the game on the mound, Brown surrendered four runs (three earned) on five hits and had four strikeouts. Allen Taylor threw 1.1 innings and gave up six runs (four earned) on four hits.
Jason Walker pitched the final 0.2 innings and kept the JV Patriots scoreless.
The JV Raiders (2-1, 1-1 SAC) will travel to Pinecrest on Friday to wrap up the two-game regular-season series with the JV Patriots. Play will start at 5 p.m.