The Richmond Hill High School softball team has etched a place in the school record book this season.
The Lady Wildcats added another chapter on Wednesday.
RHHS swept Northside-Warner Robins 2-1 and 10-2 in their best-of-3 series to advance to the Sweet 16 of the Class AAAAA state tournament.
After winning a pair of 1-0 games to claim the program’s first region championship since 2001, Richmond Hill (25-6) again struggled to score runs in game 1 against Northside (16-17). However, pitchers Sammi Mault and Morgan Hunter held Northside in check and the RHHS bats awoke in game 2 to extend the Lady Wildcats’ winning streak to 12 games.
“They’re finding a way to take care of business,” RHHS head coach Angie Hummeldorf said of her team. “We’ve had a lot of timely hitting to get us here, and now that we’re here, we struggled a little bit with timely hitting. But we found different ways.”
Richmond Hill will host Dalton (21-10) in a second-round doubleheader next Wednesday. Dalton, the No. 2 seed from Region 7-AAAAA, routed Druid Hills 10-0 and 11-1 in the first round.
“Obviously we’re at the point where they’re all good teams,” Hummeldorf said. “Now any team can beat anybody, and we just have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
The Lady Wildcats managed just four hits in game 1, but took advantage of five Northside errors to pull out the win. Hannah Fitzgerald had two hits and Maddie Gorsuch added a double.
Mault pitched a complete game, allowing five hits while striking out seven batters. Northside scored a run in the fourth inning to pull within 2-1, but the senior ace blanked the Lady Eagles the rest of the way.
Mault also pitched two shutout innings to close game 2. Hunter started in the pitcher’s circle and gave up two runs with three strikeouts before giving way to Mault with no outs and two runners on base in the fifth inning.
“Our pitching has been tremendous,” Hummeldorf said. “Kudos to Sam and Morgan. Morgan came in that second game and threw two times around (the batting order), and the third time around, we just felt it was time to bring Sammi back in to finish it off.”
Richmond Hill struck first in game 2 with a pair of runs in the third inning. Jess Kifferly hit a leadoff double to the left field fence and scored the game’s first run on Cheznie Shuman’s double to left.
With two outs, Haley Taylor beat out an infield grounder for a single. Shuman hustled all the way home from second base on the play to extend the Lady Wildcats’ lead to 2-0.
The setting sun helped Richmond Hill score four runs in the fourth. Northside catcher Jaliyah Lynch had a difficult time seeing the ball as the sun was going down beyond the outfield fence, and several pitches sailed to the backstop.
Gorsuch, Mault and Aubri Reed all scored on a wild pitch or passed ball. Also, Sarah Grace Cowart raced home from third after Kifferly drew a walk and intentionally got caught in a rundown between first and second base.
The Lady Wildcats had only two hits as part of the four-run rally, but benefitted from two walks along with six pitches that got past Lynch with the sun in her eyes.
“It’s unfortunate for them, it really is,” Hummeldorf said. “But like the umpire said, we can’t stop it. Both teams are put in that position.”
After Northside scored to narrow the gap to 6-1, RHHS got the run right back in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Fitzgerald and Gorsuch. The Lady Wildcats blew the game open with three runs in the sixth on run-scoring singles from Adriana Garrett and Fitzgerald and an RBI groundout by Taylor.
Wednesday’s result was much different from the last time Richmond Hill hosted a first-round series with a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. Lee County upset the Lady Wildcats two years ago.
“The seniors were here for that, and they weren’t going to let it happen again,” Hummeldorf said. “They’ve worked too hard for these four years to let that happen again.”