CAMERON — The mojo was back in the Lady Raider softball team’s bats on Wednesday, fueling an upset win in the semifinal round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament.
Playing on the road at No. 2 Union Pines High School, the No. 3 Lady Raiders earned a 16-7 win.
Peppering the field with a dozen hits, including four home runs from four different players, Richmond ended a season-long four game losing streak.
Using a pair of five-run innings, a four-run fourth inning and adding two insurance runs late, the Lady Raiders punched their ticket back to the SAC tournament championship for the second consecutive season.
“Tonight was really about getting out of our own way,” head coach Mike Way said. “We’ve been waiting to mess up, and when you get in the mindset that it’s going to go bad, that’s what happens. We had to start playing to win instead of playing not to lose.
“We had a good approach tonight and all the home runs except one went to the opposite field,” he added of the power. “Most of the pitches were away so we didn’t try to do anything to be heroes. Playing from behind early (in recent games) forced bad at-bats, but tonight we fixed that.”
Falling behind by a run after the first inning, a five spot in the top of the second put the Lady Raiders up 5-1.
Sophomore Jakayla Steele got the homers started with a one-out solo shot to center field to tie the game.
Four at-bats later with two on, senior Quston Leviner connected on the first of her team-high three hits, an RBI infield single, to score junior Christi Jacobs (walk).
Extending the lead in the next at-bat, junior Katie Way belted her fifth longball of the spring. Powering the third offering from starting pitcher Madison Wagner (5.0 IP, 14 runs, 10 hits, 9 Ks), Way cleared the wall in center to score freshman Hayden Robinson (single) and Leviner.
Union Pines (12-8) answered with four runs in the home half to tie the game 5-5. Leviner pitched a complete game and allowed 7 runs (3 earned) on 7 hits with 6 strikeouts.
Two more runs by the Lady Vikings in the bottom of the third made Richmond’s deficit 7-5.
But from that point on, it was all Richmond, which scored 11 unanswered runs over the fourth, fifth and seventh innings.
With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the fourth, senior Makayla Parks delivered with a two-RBI single to center to tie the game. Crossing home were junior Addy Hollingsworth and Leviner, who both reached via a single.
Way (walk) and Parks each used a passed ball to the backstop to score before the end of the frame to give Richmond a 9-7 advantage.
Leviner stranded two base runners in scoring position in the fourth to preserve the lead, and the Lady Raiders drove in five more runs in the fifth.
The first two runs scored when Leviner reached on an error, seeing Robinson (walk) and Hollingsworth (single) score. Way capped her game-high four-RBI performance with a double to the gap to plate Leviner.
Putting the Lady Raiders up by a touchdown, senior Macy Steen crushed a 1-1 offering over the fence in left field for a two-run blast, her first this season.
For good measure in the top of the seventh, junior Ryelan Lyerly connected on a two-run dinger for the game’s final runs. She scored Parks (error) and matched Way with her team-leading fifth homer.
Richmond’s one through six hitters (Leviner, Way, Parks, Steen, Lyerly and Steele) accounted for 12 RBI during the win.
Way and Hollingsworth each had two hits, and five other players had one hit. Leviner and Way each scored three times, while Parks, Robinson and Hollingsworth crossed home safely twice.
Advancing to Thursday’s SAC tournament championship, the Lady Raiders (12-6) will try to hand No. 1 Scotland High School (16-3) its first loss to a conference opponent this season.
It’s a rematch of last spring’s tournament title game, and Richmond is looking to win the crown for the first time since 2019. Play will start at 6 p.m. in Laurinburg.
“I’m just looking for some fight and some improvement on our part,” Way said of playing Scotland. “We can’t go down there expecting to lose.
“It’s going to take a great effort, we all realize that. Our focus is on playing better for next week and seeing signs of life between now and then.”