Everything that needed to line up for Richmond Hill after their big win last week against South Effingham did, everything except one minor detail.
The Mustangs, after using their number one starter in the loss to the Wildcats, ran in to a buzz saw in Benedictine’s Michael Patton and lost to the Cadets on Tuesday 12-2 in five innings.
While Patton was giving the Wildcats a golden opportunity to move in to sole possession of first place in the region, the Panthers were hanging on to their own playoff hopes against the Wildcats.
Richmond Hill was ineffective from the mound, the field and the plate as Liberty County spoiled the day with a 12-9 win at Panther Field. A seventh inning rally that fell short made the score closer than the game really was. Give Liberty County credit though, they took a chapter from the Wildcats play book of late by hitting the ball hard and putting the pressure on the defense.
Scott Strickland took the mound on three days rest from his two inning stint at South Effingham and struggled from the start. The Richmond Hill senior never seemed to have control of his pitches a double and a solo home run in the inning helped to give Liberty County a 4-0 head start. Strickland would settle down in the second but the Panthers were not through.
Three singles in the third brought out coach Curry and Alex Tucker in to relieve. Tucker worked the next inning as well but also was ineffective as the Panthers built their lead to 12-3. The big blow being a two run triple.
Richmond Hill beat the Panthers earlier in the season 14-5 by banging out 12 hits against them. In contrast, they only managed eight hits the entire game and five of those were during a seventh inning rally. That and Cameron Corbin’s final two innings of scoreless relief were the lone bright spots on a day that just didn’t go their way.
Justin Eaton relieved starter Aaron Hoffer in the fourth inning and wound up with the win for Liberty County. The Panthers ace, Skyler Hoffer checked in to the game in the fifth inning and mowed the Wildcats down the next two innings but in the seventh everything started to unravel.
Corbin led off with a infield single, Strickland and Matt Schlag followed with singles before a nicely turned double play at second seemed to end the rally, even though one run scored.
Then Aaron Pittsley drove in a run with another infield single and Hoffer re-loaded the bases with a walk, an error, and a hit batsman. Another pitching change followed.
Erik Mattingly helped tighten the drama by hitting Josh Futch who got credit for an RBI the hard way. Cameron Corbin then followed with a mis-played double to center field that scored two more runs, but there just were not enough outs left to continue the improbable rally as Mattingly got the final strikeout of the game to end it.
Liberty County improved to 8-11, 3-4 in region 3S-AAA. The Wildcats dropped to 13-6, 5-2. The loss ended a six game winning streak for the Cats. The good news is the Wildcats are still tied for first place with South effingham and the suddenly tightened region does not look like a cake walk for them or Richmond Hill.
The Mustangs have Burke County, who is now in second place with a 4-3 region record, Hephzibah and then travel to Liberty County. Richmond Hill hosts Benedictine, Burke County today at 1 p.m., and travels to Hephzibah next Friday for their region finale.
In between, the Wildcats will host H.V. Jenkins Monday April 23 at 5:30 p.m. for senior night and then travel to Groves on Wednesday for a 5:30 p.m. start.