Friday, 30 April 2021 23:34

Defensive woes overshadow Raiders' hitting, Richmond drops series to Rams

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Senior Michael Pettitt, who had 2 RBIs on Friday, races to first on a fielder's choice. Senior Michael Pettitt, who had 2 RBIs on Friday, races to first on a fielder's choice. Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

ROCKINGHAM — An early back-and-forth affair between the Richmond Raiders and Purnell Swett Rams was undone following a big third inning by the visiting team on Friday.


Squaring off for the second time in three nights, the Raiders started their season with consecutive losses, falling to Purnell Swett 12-6.

Struggles in the field defensively and a five-spot by the Rams in the third cost the Raiders, head coach Rob Ransom said.

“Our defense was not good in some spots and the errors came back to bite us,” Ransom explained. “We gave up a big third inning and that was too much to overcome.

“We swung the bat a little better tonight, we just didn’t score as many runs as we gave up. That’s the bottom line,” he added. 

The Raiders held an early 2-1 lead after the first inning, and scored their first run on a bases-loaded walk by senior Hunter Hancock. 

In the next at-bat, senior Michael Pettitt connected on a pitch from Isaiah Oxendine, grounding into a fielder’s choice to second, but recorded an RBI when junior Cameron Way (single) crossed the plate.

Junior pitcher Will Dawkins got the start on the mound for the Raiders, his first start in green and gold, and went 2.1 innings. He allowed seven runs (three earned) on six hits and struck out three Rams.

Junior Will Dawkins delivers a pitch during the second inning of Friday’s home game. (Kyle Pillar)

Purnell Swett used an RBI single from Mason Locklear to tie the game at two runs in the top of the second.

With one out in the top of the third, the Rams used two errors, two hits and a fielder’s choice to take a 6-2 lead. Way replaced Dawkins on the bump, and a ground out on the next play scored Purnell Swett’s final run of the inning.

The Raiders chipped away at the lead with three runs in the home half, using one-out singles from Matthew Walker, Colin Wheeler and Hancock to load the bases.

Pettitt dug in and grounded into a fielder’s choice, but recorded his team-leading second RBI of the night. Ransom got creative and put the double steal on, which saw Pettitt swipe second and Wheeler raced home on the throw down.

During the same at-bat with freshman Camron Seagraves at the plate, he sent a ground ball to short and reached on an error, allowing Pettitt to make it a 7-5 game.

“We really have to play better defense,” Pettitt said. “We had three errors tonight, and we have to know what to do in different situations. If we get better at that, we’ll get into the win column.

“I thought we swung the bat really well tonight,” he added of Richmond’s nine hits. “We are swinging at good pitches and when that happens, we are productive — whether that’s bunts or little dribblers. It can get the job done in close games, and we hope that happens soon.”

The Rams added two runs in the top of the fourth, and scoring Richmond’s final run in the home half of the frame was senior Tony Gathings. 

After reaching on a bunt single and moving over on an Alston Johnson sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch, Gathings scored when Walker grounded out to first base.

Senior Tony Gathings drops down a bunt single that later allowed him to score (Kyle Pillar)

Purnell Swett added two insurance runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to take the series win over the Raiders.

The Raiders threatened to score late, but left the bases loaded in the sixth with back-to-back strikeouts and left runners on the corners to end the game in the seventh.

Way tossed 3.2 innings of relief, allowed four earned runs off seven hits and recorded three strikeouts. Closing the game was junior Jude Howard, who gave up a run on one hit and added one punchout.

“We are going to continue to throw those guys because they’re the ones who are most consistent in practice,” Ransom said of the platoon of pitchers. “Until they separate themselves a little bit, this is the way we’re going to go with it.”

Gathings and Way led the Raiders with two hits each, with one of Gathings’ going for two bases. Pettitt added a double to go along with his two RBIs, and the other four hits went to Hancock, Johnson, Walker and Wheeler.

Richmond stranded 10 runners on base, which is something Ransom said needs to change in order for the team to enter the win column, along with a focus on tightening up the defense.

“We have to limit the mistakes in the field and we have to stop throwing the ball around,” Ransom said. “And we have to have better at-bats. A couple of times we had the top of our lineup come up and we couldn’t cash in. Those guys have to drive in runs.

“We’ll come out to practice on Monday and work on the fundamentals,” Ransom closed. “Hopefully we’ll field some ground balls, make plays, swing the bat and that’ll help us execute a little better.”

Richmond (0-2 SAC) will return to the diamond Tuesday for another home game against Pinecrest High School (2-0), which sets up the home-and-away series. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.

JV Raiders blank Rams, improve to 2-0

Sophomore Ethan Locklear gears up for a pitch during Friday’s win. (Hannah Hinshaw)

After rolling past Purnell Swett in the season opener on Tuesday, the junior varsity Raiders and head coach Corey Wallace picked up another win Friday.

Sending sophomore pitcher Ethan Locklear to the mound, the Raiders earned a 5-0 win. The game lasted five innings due to the time limit.

Locklear pitched a complete game, allowed just three hits and registered eight strikeouts. He was also productive at the plate, going 2-for-2 with two RBIs.

In the first inning, Locklear singled up the middle to score sophomore Walker Lambeth (hit-by-pitch). 

The Raiders broke the game open with four runs in the bottom of the second. With the bases loaded, sophomore Ethan Clayton singled to right, scoring Bryce Goodwin (walk) and Ashton Phifer (single).

In the next at-bat, freshman Isaac Hinshaw grounded out but scored Lambeth (walk), and Locklear capped the scoring one pitch later with an RBI base hit to score Clayton.

“It was another good game for us, and I’m glad we got the win,” Wallace said. “Tonight we watched too many pitches at the plate, which made it a closer game than on Tuesday.

“Ethan (Locklear) pitched really well and helped his cause at the plate,” he added. “Walker was productive by getting on base, and Isaac continued his hot start. Ethan (Clayton) also had a productive game for us.”

Now 2-0, the JV Raiders will also host Pinecrest on Tuesday, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Last modified on Saturday, 01 May 2021 00:31
Kyle Pillar

Nine-time N.C. Press Association award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_