Home Local Sports No. 7 Richmond rallies late, but exits 4A East playoffs in second...

No. 7 Richmond rallies late, but exits 4A East playoffs in second round

Head coach Mike Way meets with the Lady Raiders during Friday's second round playoff game. (Kyle Pillar, sports editor)

ROCKINGHAM — There was no question from Mike Way about the Richmond softball team’s effort during its second round playoff game on Friday.

In a game that went to nine innings, the back-and-forth affair with Holly Springs High School ended two runs shy of moving on.

The No. 7 Lady Raiders, who rallied in the bottom of the seventh to force extras, fell to No. 23 Holly Springs 9-7. 

It was the second straight year the two teams met in the second round of the NCHSAA 4A East playoffs.

Richmond had the tying run at first base and the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but was unable to keep its season alive.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of the effort tonight,” Way, who has coached the team for four years, said. “We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to and what was right in front of us, but there’s not one bad thing I can say about anybody’s effort. 

“That’s the most important part for me. If everybody is pushing toward the same thing and you come up short, at least we were trying.“

Richmond held an early 3-0 lead before falling behind 7-4 in the top of the seventh. A three-run rally in the home half sparked the two innings of free softball.

A 1-2-3 top of the first from senior pitcher Quston Leviner (9.0 IP, 9 earned runs, 8 strikeouts) led to a run in the bottom half.

Leviner led off with a double, one of her three hits, and scored when senior Macy Steen knocked the first of her two hits the opposite way for an RBI single.

Following another scoreless top of the second, the Lady Raiders’ offense produced two more runs. 

Junior Katie Way, who matched Leviner with a team-high three hits, lasered a two-RBI double just inside third base off starting pitcher Kendall Wallace (6.0 IP, 7 hits, 4 earned runs). Scoring were junior Kady Harris (walk) and Leviner (single).

Holly Springs (14-9) scored two runs on a two-out single in the third and added a run with a solo homer in the top of the fourth to tie the game.

Junior Ryelan Lyerly answered in the fourth for Richmond to give the Lady Raiders a 4-3 lead. A line drive single, one of her two hits, landed in center and brought home senior Makayla Parks (fielder’s choice).

Steen, who walked the at-bat before Lyerly, moved to third. Way tried to extend the lead and sent Steen home on a throw back to the circle, but the final out was recorded.

With two away in the top of the seventh, the Lady Golden Hawks scored four runs to jump ahead 7-4. They used a two-run infield single that was nearly caught for the final out and a two-RBI double.

Digging deep, the Lady Raiders wouldn’t go away quietly as they sent seven batters to the plate to score three runs in the home half.

McKenzie Collins (3 IP, 3 hits, 3 earned runs) was in the circle for Holly Springs and gave up consecutive singles to Leviner and Way before plunking Parks in the helmet to load the bases.


Steen did a job and brought home Leviner on a sacrifice fly, which resulted in an RBI double by Lyerly in the next at-bat. Lacing the ball to the gap in center, Lyerly scored Way to cut the deficit to one run.

Freshman Hayden Robinson kept the rally going when she bunted safely into a fielder’s choice to score a run. Rolling the ball back to the circle, Parks slid safely under the toss to the plate.

With the ball trickling to the backstop, Way sent Lyerly home to try and end the game. But Collins tagged her out for the second out and picked up a strikeout to keep it locked 7-7.

Leviner stranded a runner in the top of the eighth and Richmond went down in order in the bottom half.

Holly Springs went ahead 9-7 on a two-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth.

Walks to Way and Parks to start Richmond’s half of the ninth were followed by a fielder’s choice, an infield fly rule and a groundout to end the game.

“The only other thing I have to say is that it was 100 percent my fault,” Way shared. “There were a couple of chances to change the way we did things in the game and I screwed them up on my part.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow. And I hate it for the girls, especially for the seniors, that it had to end that way. We had chances to change the outcome and I didn’t do my part.

“The main play is when we tied it at seven and an unnecessary out got called at the plate. I tried to end the game on a play that’s probably not there. We most likely are able to score an eighth run (to win) and I have to live with it.” 

Lyerly, Steen and Way each had two RBI, while Robinson drove in one run. Richmond stranded eight runners, while Leviner held 11 Holly Springs runners on base from the circle.

This spring, the Lady Raiders ended the season with a 13-8 overall record and took second place in the Sandhills Athletic Conference. Richmond had an 8-4 record against SAC teams and also returned to the 4A East postseason for the second straight season.

Offensively, the Lady Raiders were led in batting average by Leviner (.500), followed by Way (.483) and Steen (.406). Those three led the team in total hits with 37, 28 and 26, respectively.

Way and Lyerly were Richmond’s top home run and RBI leaders, both swatting five longballs this season. Way had 28 RBI, Lyerly finished with 25 RBI and Steen drove in 23 RBI.

In the circle, Leviner started all 21 games for Richmond and pitched 128.2 innings. She closed her career with 139 strikeouts and 4.57 earned run average.

“The best part to me is doing what we need to do to scratch out runs and play aggressively,” Way closed. “Sometimes we have to do things that aren’t necessarily by the book, but it’s the best chance to score at the time. 

“I’m proud of the fact the girls trusted me enough to just do what I told them. I wish I could take two or three of those things back, but they did everything I asked them to do.”

The Richmond Observer will publish an All-SAC article when the team is announced later this spring.

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Kyle Pillar is a 16-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.