Thursday, 02 May 2019 00:29

No. 1 Lady Raiders use 'grit', Swiney's 5 RBIs to advance to SAC tournament title game

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Allyiah Swiney went 4-for-4 with two homers and five RBIs to help Richmond advance to the SAC tournament title game. Allyiah Swiney went 4-for-4 with two homers and five RBIs to help Richmond advance to the SAC tournament title game. Michelle Parrish — The Richmond Observer.

ROCKINGHAM — An early scare in Wednesday’s semifinal game of the Sandhills Athletic Conference tournament let the Lady Raider softball team find its “grit”.

The No. 1 Lady Raiders welcomed in No. 4 Purnell Swett High School and overcame a five-run deficit in the later innings to advance to their fifth-straight conference title championship game.

The come-from-behind win saw Richmond hang eight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to escape with a 10-5 victory against “a really good” Lady Rams team.

Finding herself in unfamiliar territory was senior pitcher Greyson Way, who surrendered a pair of home runs in the first three innings. Purnell Swett jumped out to a 5-0 lead thanks to a two-run shot by Jaileana Deese, coupled with a three-run blast by Chloe Locklear.

But that’s all the Lady Rams would get, as those two home runs were the first of six total in the game. Way pitched a complete game, gave up five run on 10 hits and struck out four batters.

Starting for Purnell Swett was freshman pitcher Chandra Locklear, who dominated early. Through the first three innings, she allowed just one Richmond hit.

“I told the girls we had to put our foot on the pedal and go,” head coach Wendy Wallace said of trailing by five early on. “When we were in the middle innings, we had to step up and put some grit behind us.”

Freshman center fielder Allyiah Swiney fired up the comeback train with a solo shot to center field in the bottom of the fourth inning. She led the team with a perfect 4-for-4 performance, including two homers and five RBIs.

In the next at-bat, sophomore third baseman Payton Chappell hit a solo shot to cut Richmond’s deficit to 5-2. It was her seventh homer of the spring. The back-to-back jacks saw Chandra Locklear pulled from the circle after 3.2 innings and seven strikeouts.

“Allyiah and Payton served as a spark plug for us to get things going,” Wallace said. “We knew we had to put the bat on the ball and make some adjustments. Early in the game, we were trying to pull it and were out in front of the off-speed stuff.

“Later in the game, we adjusted and became more patient at the plate,” she added. “The girls started hitting backside.”

After leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth, the Lady Raiders’ bats exploded for eight runs in the sixth. Swiney and Chappell led off with back-to-back singles, and senior Savannah Lampley scored Swiney on an RBI groundout to second base.

A walk to Way put runners on the corners with two outs, and senior first baseman Taylor Parrish hit the go-ahead three-run blast to center field to make it 6-5.

Walks to junior Kayla Hawkins and freshman Kenleigh Frye, paired with a single by junior Madison Jordan kept the inning alive for Swiney to dig in again. On the first pitch from Deese, Swiney cleared the deck with a grand slam, her third of the season, to dead center field to cap Richmond’s scoring.

The Lady Raider defense also had a couple of clutch plays in the later innings to keep Purnell Swett from climbing back in it. In the top of the sixth, Chappell started a 5-4-6 double play on a MariJo Wilkes bunt attempt.

Chappell got the out at first to Frye covering the bag, who whipped it to Lampley at second, who applied the tag on Angelica Locklear, who had rounded the bag.

To end the game, Swiney made a diving catch going toward the wall in center field on a Summer Bullard fly ball with the bases loaded and one out. She popped up and picked off Deese at second, who failed to tag on the play to end the game.

“Allyiah had a great night,” Wallace said. “She made big adjustments all night and does a great job of hitting the ball up the middle and backside. She was feeling it -- I told her in her last at-bat that if she saw something she liked, to go ahead and swing. And dang it if she didn’t.”

Parrish went 2-for-3 on the night with three RBIs and a run scored, and Chappell posted a 2-for-4 mark with an RBI and two runs scored. Lampley added the other Lady Raider run batted in.

Richmond (23-2) will host No. 3 Lumberton High School (17-5) in the SAC tournament championship Friday. The Lady Pirates handed Richmond its only regular-season SAC loss the last time the two met. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.

Kyle Pillar

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

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