RALEIGH — Unable to complete a first-round upset in the NCHSAA 4A East playoffs, the Richmond Raider baseball team saw its season come to an end on Tuesday.
Playing on the road at No. 15 Millbrook High School, the No. 18 Raiders couldn’t hold onto an early lead and lost 6-3.
Aside from a five-run bottom of the third inning by the Wildcats (19-7), the game was otherwise in Richmond’s favor.
The game was delayed for approximately 30 minutes due to lightning at the conclusion of the sixth inning.
When play resumed and Richmond down 6-1, the Raiders scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh. But the comeback effort came up short with the tying run at the plate.
Junior Camron Seagraves got the nod to start on the mound for the Raiders, opposite of Millbrook’s Will Turner. Going 2.1 innings, Seagraves allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits and struck out four batters.
Turner surrendered one run on five hits through 5.0 innings, as Matt Ulicny closed the final 2.0 innings. The Raiders scored two runs off two hits against the reliever.
Taking over on the mound after Seagraves, junior James Eason pitched the final 3.2 innings for Richmond. He allowed one earned run on one hit with two Ks.
Richmond got on the board in the top of the first after Turner loaded the bases with two outs. Seagraves led off the game reaching on an error, and junior Isaac Hinshaw (single) and senior Ethan Clayton (walk) filled out the bases.
With sophomore Mason Murray at the dish, a dropped third strike rolled to the backstop, allowing all runners to advance safely. Eason (infield single) trotted home to give Richmond an early 1-0 lead.
A recurring issue for the Raiders’ offense in the latter part of the season has been leaving runners on base.
During Tuesday’s outing, Richmond stranded 10 base runners, including six in scoring position. In the first and fifth innings, the Raiders left the bases loaded.
Solo runners were stranded in the second and sixth innings and two more were left on in the seventh.
“We had runners on base all game long and had the bases loaded twice,” head coach Rob Ransom said. “And we were only able to get one run out of those situations.
“Then we had a lightning delay and were able to score two runs, but that’s all we could get out of it. It was a decent little push, just too little, too late.”
The Wildcats used an RBI single, an RBI double and another RBI single to take a 3-1 lead with no outs in the bottom of the third.
With one away, a wild pitch and an RBI base knock made Richmond’s deficit four runs. Ending the inning, Murray nabbed CJ Bennett trying to swipe second.
A sacrifice fly to left field recorded the second out of the bottom of the fourth, but a run scored, Millbrook’s final run of the game.
“They put hits together and swung the bat well for an inning,” Ransom said of Millbrook. “When we put James in, he pitched really well and gave us a chance. We just didn’t swing the bat the way we should have.”
After being retired in order in the fourth, the Raiders left sophomore Landon Taylor (walk), Eason (single) and Hinshaw (single) on base.
Eason faced three batters in the home half of the fifth, using a 5-3 double play and a groundout to keep Millbrook from scoring.
Fresh off the lightning delay, a leadoff double by Seagraves and an Ashton Phifer hit-by-pitch put two on with no outs in the seventh.
Hinshaw, who had a team-high three hits, connected on his final one for an RBI single to left, bringing in Seagraves. A passed ball in the next at-bat created enough time for Phifer to score the game’s final run.
With runners on the corners, a pop out to first base ended the Raiders’ rally.
Rounding out Richmond’s seven hits, Eason and Seagraves added two apiece to go along with Hinshaw’s three-hit performance. Hinshaw and Murray recorded an RBI apiece.
“I appreciate the seniors and all they’ve done for our program. We’re going to miss them, but we’re already looking forward to getting back to it next year,” Ransom said.
“What came back to hurt us this season is not hitting well enough with runners in scoring position,” he closed.
“That was the difference in our season. If we get hits here or there, that could have led to a few more wins and better seeding. Our pitching and defense were good at times, we just were not consistent enough at the plate.”
Richmond finished the season with a 14-11 overall record and was fourth in the Sandhills Athletic Conference.
The Raiders posted a 6-6 mark against SAC teams and made it back to the 4A East postseason for the second straight season.
Leading the Raiders at the plate in batting average was Seagraves (.358). Four other players batted at least .300 who had at least 30 plate appearances — Phifer (.333), Hinshaw (.325), Eason (.320) and junior Zaviar Lowry (.300).
Other offensive stat leaders this spring were Seagraves (hits, 29), Seagraves (runs scored, 22) and Hinshaw (RBI, 24).
The Richmond Observer will publish an All-SAC article when the team is announced later this spring.