Sole possession of second place sounds pretty good to Richmond Hill’s baseball team right now. Their 8-2 win over Burke County in Waynesboro on Friday earned them that distinction. It was a familiar theme for the Wildcats against the Bears: pitch well and strike with a big inning.
Matt Schlag got the start for Richmond Hill. He pitched and held the Bears at bay while his defense committed four errors behind him as he waited for the offense to back him up. It finally came in an eight run fourth inning when the Wildcats struck for all of their runs at once. With the lead firmly in hand, Scott Strickland pitched three innings of scoreless relief to pick up his first save of the season.
After the Bears starting pitcher Trent Hills looked unbeatable for the first three innings, mowing down the Wildcats in order, his team was squandering every opportunity the Wildcats gave him. Schlag was able to work around the four errors, five hits and a pair of walks and gave up the two runs in the bottom of the fourth but only after his team had given him a cushion. The Bears frustration peaked in the third.
The Bear hurler found himself in control of his own destiny when he came to the plate with the bases loaded only to have Schlag strike him out, one of three on the day. In all, the Richmond Hill senior stranded seven base runners in the four innings of work. Hills was unable to shake off the failure and seemed like a different pitcher to start the fourth.
After Cameron Corbin led off the inning with a walk, Scott Strickland drove him in with a hard hit double. Schlag followed with another double. A clearly shook-up Hills loaded the bases with a hit batsman and a walk. The Bear coaching staff had seen enough and called in Brandon Love, their highly touted lefthander, to relieve, but the Wildcats were not through.
Jeremy Goolsby continued his good work at the plate by driving in a run with a single. Josh Futch followed with an RBI fielders choice, Corbin with an RBI single, and Strickland hit another hard shot to the deepest part of the park for an RBI sacrifice fly. Richmond Hill had done in one inning what the Bears failed to do the entire game - take advantage of the other team’s mistakes.
With a six run lead, Strickland smelled blood and dominated the Bears the rest of the way. The Richmond Hill senior shut the door by striking out the next five batters and giving up only a harmless bloop single in the final inning.After winning their last four games, the four game losing streak from two weeks past is beginning to become a distant memory. The bad news is there are now teams lining up to knock them from that lofty perch, even as you read this. South Effingham, who the Cats lost to 10-0 during that four game lull, is first on the list.
The Wildcats 11-5, 3-1 will travel to the Corral on Friday for a 6 p.m. start. They come home on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against Hephzibah then are in Liberty County Tuesday April 17 for a 5:30 p.m. game. All are region games and all of them big.
The top three teams from the southern half of region 3-AAA will join the top three teams from the northern sub-region to take part in the region tournament beginning May 1. The top four teams from the region tournament will advance to State, so Richmond Hill does not need to beat South Effingham this Friday to make their goal of going to the post season. Head coach Mitchell Curry and his team also know that winning the sub-region would make it all that much sweeter, and no one is going to do that without going through the Mustangs.