SOUTHERN PINES — A three-run top of the fourth inning for the Richmond Rattlers’ varsity baseball team proved to be the difference maker in Tuesday’s win over Pinecrest.
On the road against the Pines after a week off for the Fourth of July, the Rattlers used a trio of pitchers to extend the team’s winning streak to three games. Behind four innings from rising senior and starting pitcher Luke Preslar, Richmond held off Pinecrest 8-5.
The Rattlers collected seven hits and used four Pinecrest errors in the first of the three-game set. Rising senior Dallas Cowick and rising sophomore Colin Wheeler each had a team-high two hits, including a double apiece.
Pinecrest would take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a passed ball, but the Rattlers responded with a run of their own in the top of the second. Wheeler led off the inning with a double down the left field line and rising junior Jaheim Harrington came in to courtesy run for the catcher.
A passed ball allowed Harrington to trot to third and a walk to rising sophomore Alston Johnson in the next at-bat put runners on the corners. The Rattlers would use a double steal move to score Harrington, the first of his game-high three runs scored, as Johnson took off for second, forcing the throw to allow Harrington to slide in safely.
Preslar worked himself out of two jams in the second and third innings, escaping with two runners on both times to preserve the tied game. In the top of the fourth, the Rattlers opened the game up with a three-run spurt.
Wheeler collected his second hit of the game with two outs, and Johnson put another runner on when he was hit by a pitch. That cleared the way for rising junior Michael Pettitt, who connected on the first pitch of his at-bat for an RBI double to right field, scoring Harrington (running for Wheeler).
Errors on back-to-back infield grounders by rising senior Austin Talton and rising junior Tony Gathings allowed for Johnson and Pettitt to score.
In his final inning of work, Preslar escaped a bases-loaded situation in the fourth. He was replaced by rising sophomore Cameron Way, who threw two innings of relief and gave up two unearned runs on one hit.
Richmond tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth inning, seeing Preslar help his cause and score on a wild pitch, sliding head first under the tag at the plate. Rising sophomore Harley Honeycutt recorded an RBI on a fielder’s choice, scoring rising sophomore JD Lampley (walk).
The Pines would get two runs back in the bottom half of the inning on an error and a sacrifice fly to make it a 6-3 ball game.
Harrington got to bat for himself to leadoff the top of the seventh and was plunked by a pitch. He moved to third on Cowick’s double, and scored on the next at-bat when Way sent a grounder to second base which saw an errant throw sail to the backstop. The throwing error allowed Harrington to score and Cowick followed suit when no one covered home plate.
Rising senior Noah Altman came in to close out the game for the Rattlers, as the righty gave up two quick runs before shutting down the Pines in order with runners at second and third.
The victory moved the Rattlers’ overall record in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League to 5-3. Richmond will host Pinecrest Wednesday for the middle game of the series, with first pitch set for 7 p.m.