There comes a moment over the course of a season when a team takes a stand and says “this is who we are.” Richmond Hill’s baseball team may very well have had that moment last Friday night in the first game of a doubleheader at Colquitt County when it scored six runs with two out in the fifth inning to post an 8-7 win over the Packers.
The Wildcats then completed a much-needed sweep of Colquitt with a 4-1 win in the second game. When Lowndes beat Valdosta twice on the same night it enabled Richmond Hill to snare second-place behind the Vikings in the Region 1-7A race. Bryan County faced a similar scenario in that it needed to sweep Savannah High, which it did, and have Claxton beat Screven County once, which it did not, in order to get a two seed and be a first-round host.
Instead, the Redskins (15-13), who host Long County at 6 p.m. Thursday on Senior Night, will be on the road at Crawford County (20-6) which has two games remaining.
Coach Hill Thomas’ team (15-15) will now host Westlake (13-5) in the first round of the GHSA Class 7A state playoffs at 3 p.m., in a best-of-series. The if game will be played Monday, also at Richmond Hill.
Going into the weekend the Wildcats knew in order to host, which was one of their goals on the season, they needed to take care of the Packers and needed help from Lowndes. Which they got as the Vikings won their fifth straight region title.
In the crucial middle game of the series—the Wildcats won the first game 6-0 when Garrett Wright spun a no-hitter— Colquitt led 7-2 after five innings and things looked grim.
The rally started with two outs when Tyler Fountain and Brandon Kessler singled. Alex Harwood doubled to make it 7-3, Gavin Martin walked, Mason Wilcox had an RBI single which loaded the bases.
Ty Goldrick then doubled to to play three runs for a 7-7 deadlock and then scored the winning run when the shortstop could not handle freshman Grant Wagner’s hard smash.
The third game proved to be somewhat anti-climactic as Richmond Hill jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Hunter Legas gave up three hits in five innings and Blayne Newman closed it out with two hitless innings.
Richmond Hill will go into the playoffs on a roll. Things looked dismal when they opened region play by losing all three games to Lowndes by combined scores of 32-9 to drop to 6-12 on the season.
Since then. the Wildcats have gone 9-3 and are playing with confidence and momentum.
“I think the stars aligned,” Thomas said after the Colquitt sweep. “Now we hit reset.
“We’re starting to play with confidence and we’ve gotten hot at the right time,” the first-year coach said. “What matters is what you are when you get in the playoffs, not what you were at the start.
“Once we knew we were in (playoffs) it seemed like it took a weight off their shoulders.”
While the Wildcats are playing well as a team no one is hotter than Goldrick who was hitting only .226 with five RBI at the conclusion of the Lowndes series.
Since then, he had been virtually unstoppable as he has gone on a 19-for-32 tear to raise his batting average to .376. At Colquitt he was 7-11 with five doubles that accounted for seven RBI.
Goldrick, the all-region quarterback in football who has signed to play at Erskine, has a team high 15 RBI. In region play he hit .514 (18-35). Other Wildcats hitting better than .300 are Newman at .358, Legas at .321 and freshman Grant Wagner at .310.
“I don’t worry about batting averages,” Hill said. “What I look at is how many times you reach first base and there’s lots of ways to do that.”