Home Local Sports No. 4 Raiders lose lead late, exit SAC tournament in first round

No. 4 Raiders lose lead late, exit SAC tournament in first round

Junior Ethan Locklear connects on and RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — A late-game lead didn’t hold for the Richmond Senior High School baseball team during the first round of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament on Monday.

Leading by four runs heading to the final inning, the No. 4 Raiders dropped a heartbreaker to No. 5 Southern Lee High School 9-7.

Head coach Rob Ransom noted the team had trouble closing the game despite a strong first six innings, which led to the Cavaliers scoring six runs in the final inning.

“We jumped out to a great start and Colin Wheeler pitched really well,” Ransom said. “After six innings, he was up to 100 pitches and I didn’t think he’d be able to finish the seventh. So we went with Cameron Way and James Eason.

“We didn’t make plays behind either of them, we threw the ball around and made some bad decisions,” he added. “Southern Lee took advantage of some errors and walks and hit the ball, and that was the story of the ball game.”

Senior pitcher Colin Wheeler threw 6.0 innings and allowed just three runs (two earned) on six hits. He also struck out seven batters in the game.

The Cavaliers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but a sacrifice fly by Way in the home half knotted the score of starting pitcher Kale Scruggs (4.1 innings, seven runs, four hits). Tagging up from third was senior Alston Johnson, who led off with a double and moved to third on an error.

Again Southern Lee (15-8-1, 6-7 SAC) took a one-run lead in the top of the third, but the Raiders answered with two runs in the bottom of the frame to take a 3-2 lead.

With the bases loaded, senior Matthew Walker grounded into a fielder’s choice at first, plating junior Ashton Phifer (hit by pitch). Making a heads up baserunning decision, Johnson (walk) scored from second base.

A four-run bottom of the fifth inning helped the Raiders distance themselves. Sophomore Camron Seagraves got the scoring started with an RBI double to the left-center alley, scoring Wheeler (single).


Following a single by junior Ethan Clayton, an RBI fielder’s choice by Eason scored Seagraves. Eason hit a grounder to first and Seagraves slid under the attempted tag to make it a 5-2 lead.

In the next at-bat, junior Ethan Locklear laced an RBI line drive single to left field, bringing home courtesy runner Jullian Cline. The final run of the frame came when Southern Lee committed a throwing error during a rundown, seeing Eason score.

The Cavaliers got a run back in the top of the sixth to cut their deficit to 7-3, before adding six runs in the seventh. Southern Lee used five hits, two walks and a fielder’s choice to take the lead for good.

With the bases loaded, a 1-5-3 double play from Eason to Seagraves to senior Jude Howard at first ended the threat.

Richmond tried to rally late, using a one-out single from Locklear to put a runner on. But a fly out and a fielder’s choice ended the Raiders’ run in the tournament.

“We left the bases loaded a couple of times and other runners in scoring position, and we should have been able to take advantage of that,” Ransom said. “Unfortunately that came back to get us later on.

“It’s going to be a long week and we’ll come back to practice on Wednesday,” he closed. “We’ll continue to get ready for the playoffs, see where we’re seeded and go from there.”

Johnson and Locklear led the team with two hits apiece, Johnson scored twice and Locklear drove in one run. Walker’s two RBIs were a team-high, and Eason, Seagraves and Way all had one RBI.

The Raiders (13-8, 5-8 SAC), who finished in second place in the SAC’s 4A standings, will now await the release of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s 4A East playoff brackets on Saturday.

The Richmond Observer will publish an article when the final brackets are released.

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Kyle Pillar is a 22-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on X @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.