Thursday, 21 February 2019 20:52

Raider Baseball Season Preview: "Different dynamic" fuels 2019 team for Young and company

Written by
Rate this item
(4 votes)
Cameron Carraway, one of 12 seniors on this year's team, fields a ground ball from head coach Ricky Young. Cameron Carraway, one of 12 seniors on this year's team, fields a ground ball from head coach Ricky Young. Kyle Pillar — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — Despite all of the recent rain, the Richmond Senior High School baseball field is in pretty good shape. Matching nicely to the carpet of plush green grass was the familiar crack of the bat and snap of leather, as the Raiders officially began their 2019 campaign earlier this week.

Entering his 10th season at the helm of the program is head coach Ricky Young, and with him, come a band of 12 seniors on this year’s squad. Noting it’s the “biggest class” of seniors he’s had during his tenure as head coach, Young expects this season to hold special things as the Raiders look to build off of some postseason success in 2018.

“There is a different dynamic to this year’s team with having so many seniors,” Young said. “They bring a positive attitude and have a lot of experience. The guys know the way we like to do things, and they model the good things for the younger guys.”

At the varsity level this season, Young has 20 total players, with Ralph Butler’s junior varsity team boasting 19 roster spots.

On Monday, the Raiders traveled to Pine Forest High School for a scrimmage against the Trojans, their first live action of the spring. Richmond fell by a final score of 8-0, but Young used the preseason game as a measuring stick to evaluate where the team is. 

“At this time of year, pitching is always ahead of hitting,” Young said. “We had lots of strikeouts, but we walked some batters, too. We have to swing the bat better, but playing early allows us to  get our timing down.”

A season ago, the Raiders finished 18-8 overall, and notched a third-place finish in the Sandhills Athletic Conference with a 9-5 record. The 2018 season saw a 12-game winning streak that started in the Seahawk Invitational over the Easter holiday, as the Raiders carried that momentum over to the second round of the NCHSAA 4A state playoffs.

Gone this season due to graduation are left-handed pitcher Jonathan Lee and righty Trey Watkins, as the one-two punch combined for 11 wins last year. Also gone is Drew Loving, who picked up five more wins from the hill.

Since the start of summer league ball last June, Young knew the pitching staff would be the top priority in 2019 after having to replace the trio of former pitchers. Emerging on the mound for the Rattlers last summer were current seniors Cameron Carraway and Hunter Parris.

While Young pegs Carraway (Wingate University commit) and Parris as the top two pitchers as opening day approaches, he’s planning to use a wealth of depth to pitch by committee this spring.

“We have a lot of depth in the pitching rotation,” Young explained. “There are eight or nine guys who I can use. Our situation is a little different than years past, but we are going to have to mix our styles and the game situation will dictate who we go with.

“Early in year, Cameron and Hunter are our top two pitchers,” he added. “They separated themselves over the summer. Evan Hudson is a good situational guy, and Alex Anderson and Tyler Bass will pitch some, too. The key is we can’t walk people -- but I’m really pleased with the amount of strikeouts we’ve had so far.”

Other guys expected to spend some innings on the mound are senior Jake Ransom, junior lefty Luke Preslar and sophomore southpaw Nygie Stroman. Young noted that he’d “hate to take” players like Anderson and Bass out of their regular defensive positions, but added Stroman, who is 6-7, is a “wildcard” with raw talent who he hopes to shape by the middle of the season.

Tyler Bass works on turning double plays during practice Thursday.

One area that Young is confident about is his defensive lineup, which he explained will be comprised mostly of seniors. Carraway and Ransom will split time at first base and designated hitter, while Bass (Brunswick Community College commit) and Brett Young will hold down the middle infield at shortstop and second base.

Holding down the hot corner will be Parris, and Guilford College commit Garet Weigman will be behind the plate. The outfield will be anchored by Anderson (Johns Hopkins commit) in center, with seniors Nolan Allen, Jahan Jones, Garett Richardson and Hudson vying for time in left and right field. Junior infielder Dallas Cowick will also see some innings.

“Defensively, we have a lot of solid pieces in place,” Young said. “The culture here is that everyone on the team is important, and our success (in the past) has guys buying into the team concept.”

Young is joined by a couple of new faces in the dugout this season, first by bringing assistant coach Ty Bostick up from the junior varsity team. In his first season with Richmond is assistant Chris Price, who was the head coach at Rocky River High School prior to coming to Rockingham. Corey Wallace, a former player under Young, is also helping this spring.

With the season opener set for Thursday, Feb. 27, at Anson High School, the No. 1 goal for Young and company this year is to win a regular season SAC championship. The last time they accomplished that feat was in 2016, posting an 8-2 record against conference opponents.

“We’d like to win the SAC championship,” Young said. “We thought we could do it last year, but we had one inning in every game where we imploded defensively. If we can stay away from that, and use good pitching and defense as our philosophy, we can scratch out some wins.

“The playoffs are obviously a goal, and we hope to make a deep run,” he concluded. “Everybody’s goal is to win the state championship, but the biggest goal is to improve throughout the year. It’s easy to be overconfident with so many seniors, but our performance Monday made us realize there are some things we need to work on.”

Last modified on Friday, 22 February 2019 08:33
Kyle Pillar

Sports Editor. IUP communications media and journalism alumni. English teacher, Ninth Grade Academy.

Submit local sports scores to: kpillar@richmondobserver.com

Twitter: ROSports_

Instagram: ROSports