Finally! That one word sums up the feelings of a lot of Wildcat baseball fans on Tuesday night. Finally a close game that went Richmond Hill’s way. The Cats rallied with four runs in the final two innings to edge the second place Liberty County Panthers 4-3.
Designated hitter Nathan Kilburn continued his recent hot streak with a bases loaded single to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh against a drawn in infield and outfield. It also made a winner out of junior pitcher Ryan Dickey who pitched the complete game. It was welcome relief for a heavily worked, and not completely healthy, pitching staff that has back-to-back region games this weekend on the road.
The Wildcats (10-8, 1-5) played at Benedictine last night and then travel to Burke County this afternoon before returning home on Monday against non-region Jenkins, 5:30 p.m. start. Richmond Hill has just six games remaining - four of them Region 3-AAA games and will probably need to win out for a chance to qualify for the post season tournament at the end of the month.
For five innings, Liberty County’s Skyler Hoffer made it look as though the Wildcats might not record their first region win. Hoffer worked around a first inning triple from Cody Crow and second inning double by Kilburn to stymie the Cats with six strikeouts. In the sixth inning with one man on and one man out Liberty County brought in Chris Arnold to relieve and that is when the Wildcats started turning the game around.
John Johnson greeted the reliever with a single to move Raul Rodriguez to third base before advancing to second on the throw. Kilburn followed with another clutch hit - this time a two RBI double to bring the Wildcats to within one run.
Kilburn’s game winner in the seventh was preceded by a Crow single that was sandwiched between two hit batsmen to load the bases. Johnson tied the game, driving in Tyler Mitchell with a single. With only one out and the bases still loaded, Liberty County called timeout to bring the infield and outfield in - an attempt to cut off the winning run. Kilburn worked the count to his favor, then drove a ball into the dirt in front of home plate that bounded too high for the third baseman to field and Crow slid home to win the game.
For Dickey, it was his most effective outing of the season and he gave up only six hits while striking out six and walking just three Panther hitters.
As one of a few underclassmen pitchers to get much playing time, Richmond Hill will be looking for good things from Dickey next season as he will have to anchor what will be a young and inexperienced pitching staff.