Wednesday, 02 May 2018 00:40

Top-seeded Lady Raiders blast Seventy-First; advance to SAC tournament semis

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The Lady Raiders celebrate at home plate following Greyson Way's grand slam home run in Tuesday's SAC tournament opening round win over Seventy-First. The Lady Raiders celebrate at home plate following Greyson Way's grand slam home run in Tuesday's SAC tournament opening round win over Seventy-First. Photo courtesy of Michelle Morrison Parrish.

ROCKINGHAM - For the third time this season, the Lady Raiders mercy-ruled Sandhills Athletic Conference opponent Seventy-First High School. In Tuesday’s opening round of the SAC tournament, Richmond plated its second highest run total of the year, eliminating the Lady Falcons from contention in 29-2 fashion.

Ranked as the No. 1 team in the conference tournament thanks to a perfect 14-0 regular season SAC record, the Lady Raiders (19-3, 15-0 SAC) rolled to their eighth straight overall victory, while finishing the season series against No. 8 Seventy-First (1-16, 0-15 SAC) by outscoring them 80-3. In the second meeting of the season on April 20, Richmond broke four single-game program records, most notably the most runs scored in a game with 34.

Tuesday’s game was the shortest official game of the season for the Lady Raiders, as both teams agreed to call it after just three and a half innings. Richmond got off to an explosive start after allowing a run in the top of the first inning, scoring 14 runs in the bottom half. The home team would score 10 and five runs, respectively, in the second and third innings.

“The girls hit the ball well tonight, as we jumped out ahead early with 14 runs in first inning,” head coach Wendy Wallace said after the game. “We talked about not being complacent and how we haven’t had that drive to score many runs early in the last couple games. I’m proud of girls - they were ready to go tonight.”

Facing off against Lady Falcon sophomore starting pitcher Unique Nash for the second time in three games this season, the Lady Raiders tallied 21 hits, which was the second most in a single game this season (they had 23 in the April 20 meeting).

Ten of the 11 total Richmond players to dig in at the plate recorded at least one hit, with junior starting pitcher and No. 3 hitter Greyson Way going a perfect 4-for-4 with two singles, a double and a grand slam in the bottom of the second inning. After knocking her seventh homer of the season, Way also led the team with a season and career-high seven RBIs.

Also leaving the yard was senior Brianna Baysek (7), who launched a two-run shot in her first at-bat, as well as junior Taylor Parrish (2), who also hit a two-run longball in the bottom of the third inning. The three home runs Tuesday now gives Richmond 39 team dingers on the year, which leads the conference, and is seven ahead of second-place Jack Britt High School (32).

“Greyson is looking better at plate and seems to be more comfortable lately,” Wallace commented. “And Taylor is starting to hit her stride. She’s had big hits for us when we needed them all season, and she kind of does things quietly. She gets a steady two or three hits a night and they’re always key hits. Bri has also hit some big home runs for us in the last couple of games.”

Also during the second meeting this season, Richmond broke the school’s record for most players in a game to score two or more runs with nine different players. The Lady Raiders matched that total Tuesday, as Way, Savannah Lampley and Owen Bowers, all of whom bat in the first three spots, each scored four runs. Baysek, Parrish and Kayla Hawkins all crossed home safely three times. Three other players scored twice.

Another record Richmond tied Tuesday, which was also set just two weeks ago in Fayetteville, was the number of individual batters who hit a double. Six Lady Raiders (Hawkins, Lampley, Parrish, Way, Paige Ransom and Kenzie Webb) all smacked two-baggers in the win. Richmond also hit for the cycle as a team, with Baysek and Bowers both hitting triples in their second at-bats during the first inning.

Patient at the plate, Wallace’s team also tied a season-high in bases on balls with 11. Nash lasted 2.1 innings, gave up 19 hits (including all three Richmond home runs), 20 total runs (17 earned) and walked five batters. Coming in for 2/3 of an inning in relief was sophomore Madison Tompkins, who allowed nine earned runs on just two hits and six walks. Richmond sent 39 batters to the plate in the three innings it hit, with Seventy-First only recording one fly ball out.

Richmond collected 10 singles on the night as a team, with freshman Payton Chappell hitting a game-high three base knocks. Sophomore Madison Jordan joined the hitting parade with two base hits of her own, and Lampley, Hawkins and Ransom each had one, along with Way’s two.

“We had several hard hit singles tonight, and everyone got good hits I thought,” Wallace noted. “With the team hitting hard right now, that’s good for us going into the state playoffs. Greyson and Owen are hitting well, and the lineup as a whole is hitting consistently. That’ll be a big plus for us going into the playoffs.”

Seventy-First’s offense collected five hits against Way (19-3), the most in any of the three games between the two teams this season. Sophomore Leyonna Collins accounted for both of the Lady Falcons’ runs, thanks to a first-inning RBI double and a third-inning hit-and-run RBI single. Way finished the night from the circle throwing just 55 pitches in four innings of work and tallied 10 strikeouts.

With the first-round victory, Richmond will be back in action Wednesday night with Lumberton High School (15-8, 9-6 SAC) making the trip to Rockingham. The No. 5 Lady Pirates upset No. 4 seeded Hoke County 6-4 in the first round Tuesday night.

For Lady Raiders fans, along with Wallace and several of this year’s players, it’s hard to forget last year’s SAC championship bout, which ended in a 3-2  upset victory for Lumberton against No. 1 Richmond at home. Behind a four-hit pitching performance by then-junior and current UNCW commit Morgan Britt, Richmond wasn’t able to complete the perfect season against conference opponents.

But Wallace hopes it will be different this year.

“Yeah, (Wednesday) night will be a repeat of last year’s championship,” she said. “We talked Monday about the things that happened last year that lost us the conference championship. What’s important for us is that we keep winning so we can carry that momentum into the state playoffs.

“The girls know not to take any game or win for granted,” she concluded. “And we don’t want to lose to Lumberton again this year.”

With first pitch set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Wallace explained that her team will hit the cage right after school “to work on getting back on track with speed and faster pitching” before welcoming in the Lady Pirates.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 May 2018 07:44

Kyle Pillar

Three-time award-winning sports editor. Indiana University of Pennsylvania communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

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