Saturday, 14 April 2018 23:42

Raiders blast Northwest Guilford for 9th-straight win; Loving earns 4th win of the season

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Braxton Furstein (8) went 1-for-3 with two RBIs in Richmond's 14-2 win, its ninth in a row, over Northwest Guilford on Saturday. Braxton Furstein (8) went 1-for-3 with two RBIs in Richmond's 14-2 win, its ninth in a row, over Northwest Guilford on Saturday. Photo courtesy of Kyle Pillar.

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Sometimes there’s no better way to describe a hot streak than saying just that – and that’s the case for the Richmond Raiders varsity baseball team, as it picked up its ninth-straight victory Saturday in non-conference play.

With their 14-2 thrashing of Northwest Guilford High School on the road, the Raiders currently are tied with having the second longest active winning streak in 4A play. Only Hickory Ridge (Harrisburg, N.C.) is better, having won its last 10 contests. Myers Park High School (Charlotte, N.C.) is tied with Richmond, having won nine straight, but either Hickory Ridge’s or Myers Park’s streak will come to an end Tuesday, as the two are set to face one another.

It should be noted that while all three schools’ streaks are impressive, it’s Richmond that has the toughest strength of schedule of the trio. The Raiders’ strength of schedule is 7.3, which is significantly higher than Hickory Ridge (4.4) and Myers Park (3.8).

The last time the Raiders lost a game was a 6-5 decision on the road at Hoke County on March 27. Since then, during the nine-game winning streak, they’ve put together a perfect game (Jonathan Lee), a combined no-hitter (Trey Watkins and Drew Loving) and won the Seahawk Invitational during spring break.

In Saturday’s action, Richmond was looking to avenge a 7-1 home loss to the Vikings from last season, and it was able to do that behind a total team effort at the plate and five strong innings from starting senior pitcher, and reigning Official Richmond County Male Athlete of the Week, Loving. Playing for the second time in under 24 hours, the Raiders picked up their second-straight mercy-rule win (also beat Lumberton High School 11-0 Friday night in five innings).

“We lost to them last year in a really sloppy game,” head coach Ricky Young recalled after the game. “We came out swinging the bats today, and that’s what we’ve been waiting for all year, waking up with the bats a little bit. We definitely did that today.

“Drew has thrown the ball well all year for us,” he continued. “When you have a guy as good as he is as your No. 3 pitcher, we’re fortunate to have him. And we played solid defense behind him as well.”

It was the Vikings who got on the board first in the home half of the opening inning, when Joey Rezek belted a two-out single to left field. After advancing to third base following a steal and a wild pitch, Rezek dashed home on another Loving wild pitch, his second in an at-bat against Collin Clark. But that one run would be the last the Vikings would get until the fifth inning, as Loving settled in and retired nine of the next 11 batters.

Northwest Guilford starting pitcher Gavyn Byrd had an easy go in the first, but lasted just two innings, and was pulled after the walking Jake Ransom to lead off the third inning, his third leadoff walk of the game. The Raiders took advantage of the first-batter walk in the second to Garet Weigman, as Loving sacrificed him to second, and Braxton Furstein and Tyler Bass loaded the bases on walks themselves.

Senior Justin Ingram lifted a fly ball to deep left field and reached on an error, moving all runners up 90 feet and tying the game at one. An Alex Anderson infield single on a hard ground ball to the shortstop gave the Raiders a 2-1 lead before the end of the inning. It was a lead Richmond wouldn’t surrender the rest of the afternoon.

Byrd was chased from the mound early in the third, and was replaced by lefty Jacob Egloff. The senior fared worse than his predecessor, as Egloff lasted just 1/3 of an inning and surrendered six runs (four earned) and four hits. Richmond’s bats exploded in the inning, sending 11 batters to the plate, knocking five hits (including two doubles) and scoring seven runs to bust the game wide open.

After a leadoff walk to Ransom (by Byrd), Egloff gave up a double to Weigman, who moved himself and Ransom into scoring position. Loving then helped his own cause by smacking a ball to the warning track in left field, which was dropped, and safely scored Ransom. With two ducks on the pond, Furstein delivered when he hit a screamer down the left field line, another double, and plated Weigman and courtesy runner Jahan Jones to push the score to 5-1.

Before the top of the third would end, RBI fielder’s choices by Ingram and Anderson would make it 7-1. Anderson, who reached safely on his fielder’s choice, would score in the next at-bat when Jonathan Lee hit an RBI single to left field. The ball was misplayed and rolled to the fence, allowing Anderson to dash home and Lee to reach second base. A two-out dart up the middle by Ransom would make it 9-1.

Loving faced just four hitters in the bottom of the third inning, giving up his second of four total hits on the afternoon, a one-out single to Adam Raiger.

Lee would come up big again in the top of the fourth inning, lasering a two-out, bases-loaded single to right field, scoring Furstein from third (who had reached on a dropped third strike). Senior Gordon Pihl got an unconventional RBI in the next at-bat when Northwest Guildford’s third pitcher of the day, Gavin Mortenson, plunked him with a fastball that grazed the top of his helmet. Entering the bottom of the fourth, the Raiders held an 11-1 lead.

Up big late in the game, Young sent a platoon of bench players to the plate to get in on the action. Facing yet another Vikings pitcher, this time being Clark, Chase Demay, Logan Moore and Hunter Parris all drew walks to start the top of the fifth. Evan Hudson came up to the plate and put a ball in play, but reached safely on an error by the first baseman, one of Northwest Guilford’s five errors during the game. Demay scored to make the game 12-1.

Following back-to-back strikeouts, Jones roped a two-out double to the right-center gap, a two-RBI shot that scored Moore and Parris. It would be the final offensive scoring play for Richmond. Loving allowed a leadoff runner in the home half of the fifth when Parris airmailed a ball over Ransom’s head at first. A two-out single by Mortenson scored Ethan Martin for the final run of the game.

Loving earned his fourth win in seven appearances this season, and remained perfect with a 4-0 record. His win tied him with Lee and Trey Watkins for the team lead, and after Saturday’s win, he has an impressive 1.72 ERA. Defensively, Weigman also made two spectacular diving catches in left field to limit the Vikings’ scoring opportunities.

Despite scoring 14 runs, Richmond only collected eight hits in the win. Lee led the Raiders with two hits (both singles), while Anderson, Bass, Furstein, Jones, Ransom and Weigman rounded out the offensive performance. Anderson, Furstein, Ingram and Jones all had two RBIs on the afternoon. The Raiders also remained patient at the plate, and drew nine walks in the win.

“We’ve got 22 players (on the team), and it’s hard to try to get everyone in,” Young explained. “But we were able to get everyone but three guys in today. It was a great team effort.”

Richmond will look to keep its winning streak alive next week with a home-and-home series against last-place Sandhills Athletic Conference opponent Seventy-First High School (0-13, 0-10 SAC). The first game is Tuesday at home, followed by a trip to Fayetteville on Friday. Both games are slated for a 7 p.m. start.

The Falcons have only scored 12 runs in 13 games this season, and have allowed their opponents to score 141 runs, and average of 10.8 runs per game.

Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP alumni. ELA teacher, Ellerbe Middle. Sports guru. Eagle Scout. Motorcycle enthusiast. Pretend golfer. Avid reader. Pennsylvania native. 

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