ROCKINGHAM — After a slow start to begin the season, the Richmond Senior High School baseball team continued to trend in the right direction by collecting its third straight win on Tuesday.
The Raiders kicked off their fourth Sandhills Athletic Conference series of the spring at home against Hoke County High School, and rolled to a 10-3 win behind a strong outing from junior pitcher Will Dawkins.
It was also senior night for Richmond, which honored Tony Gathings (OF), Hunter Hancock (IF) and Michael Pettitt (OF) with a memorable victory over the Bucks.
“It’s been an odd career for all of them, but they’ve stuck with our program,” head coach Rob Ransom said of the seniors. “For them to be able to play and to be recognized is special.
“They’re great kids who will be great community leaders one day,” he added. “And I’m proud to have them be a part of our program.”
Dawkins went five innings on the mound for the Raiders, giving up two unearned runs on two hits, while striking out five batters.
Freshman Camron Seagraves pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth and had three strikeouts. Junior Jude Howard closed out the win in the top of the seventh, allowing one run and punching out one batter.
“Will threw the ball really well the first four innings, and I wanted both Camron (Seagraves) and Jude to pitch tonight,” Ransom said. “Our pitching was better and we were able to piece the guys together to get the win.”
Junior pitcher Will Dawkins delivers a pitch during the fourth inning of Tuesday’s win. (Kyle Pillar)
It was a handful of juniors who helped produce a season-high 10 runs, starting with left fielder Matthew Walker and his game-high three hits and three RBIs. Second baseman Alston Johnson added two hits and an RBI and shortstop Cameron Way added a hit and an RBI.
Both Johnson and Way, who bat No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the lineup, scored three runs in the win.
All three seniors helped offensively, with Hancock recording a hit and an RBI. Pettitt notched an RBI and Gathings scored an insurance run late after reaching on an error.
“Our offense helped take some pressure off our defense,” Ransom explained. “By scoring early, it made it a little easier to play defense. We swung the bat better and we had a couple of great at-bats by Matthew, Cameron (Way) and Alston.
“Tonight the guys were able to get some timely hits, and we need to continue to see more of that,” he continued. “The more consistent we are at the plate, the better we’ll be.”
Hoke County took a 1-0 lead on a Keonte Hollingsworth sacrifice fly in the top of the first, but the Raiders responded with three runs of their own in the home half.
Walker got his night started with an RBI single to right, scoring Johnson, who led off by reaching on an error. Two at-bats later with Way (hit-by-pitch) at third and Walker at second, Hancock roped a single up the middle to score Way.
Junior Colin Wheeler capped the inning with a sacrifice fly to center, allowing Walker to beat the throw to the plate.
Dawkins sat the next nine Hoke County batters down in order during the second, third and fourth frames, and used a 5-4-3 double play to end the second, the second of two double plays Richmond turned on the night.
“I knew my team was behind me and I was trying to blow the ball by the batters,” Dawkins explained. “My curveball wasn’t working so I had to use my fastball more.
“It was great to have the defense working behind me and I knew if I could get the ball on the ground, they would make the outs behind me.”
Pettitt was hit by a pitch with one out in the third and scored when the Bucks committed one of their six errors on a Wheeler fly ball to left to make it 4-1.
Richmond added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth when Walker laced a two-RBI triple to the right-center alley. Scoring were Johnson (single) and Way (walk).
Drew Atkinson cut Hoke County’s deficit to four runs with an RBI single in the top of the fifth, but Wheeler caught Emauri Campbell trying to swipe third to end the inning.
Senior Hunter Hancock watches as his RBI single rips up the middle during the first inning. (Kyle Pillar)
The Raiders scored their final four runs in the home half of the fifth, starting with back-to-back RBI singles from Johnson and Way. Walker collected his final hit of the night, a single, in the next at-bat to put runners on the corners.
A ground out to second by Pettitt gave Way the chance to score, and a passed ball by relief pitcher Ian Carter saw Walker race home for Richmond’s final run.
“It was a good win for the team,” Walker said. “I struck out on a slider in my first at-bat so I just tried to jump on a first-pitch fastball, which is what I did. I think that helped boost the team’s energy and motivated the guys.
“We’re on the path to getting back to .500, so we just want to try to win out and make the playoffs.”
An error accounted for Hoke County’s final run of the game in the seventh, before Way made a leaping grab at short to end a bases-loaded threat.
Hancock, who played a pivotal role in getting the runs rolling early, said every win counts for this group of Raiders.
“It means a lot to all of us to win, but to win on senior night is really special,” Hancock said. “The wins haven’t come to us too easily, so each one we get counts.
“I always approach the plate wanting to hit the ball hard, and I did it early on to drive in a run and help the team win.”
Richmond (3-4 SAC) will look to get back to the .500 mark and earn its second straight series win with a road game against the Bucks (0-7, 0-5 SAC) on Friday. First pitch from Raeford is slated for 7 p.m.
Seniors Michael Pettitt (4), Tony Gathings (11) and Hunter Hancock (3) were recognized on senior night. (Kyle Pillar)
Note: The Richmond junior varsity baseball team won 5-1 over Scotland High School on Tuesday. The Richmond Observer will update this story with game details soon.