After a come from behind, nail biting, 7-6 win against Cross Creek on Tuesday qualified Richmond Hill for a trip to the state tournament, head coach Mitchell Curry described the next game against Benedictine on Thursday to decide the third and fourth seeding as "putting your hand in a sack of snakes."
Whatever you grab, it’s not going to be good.
The Wildcats second comeback try of the week fell short and the Cadets won 11-7 at Wildcat Field. Richmond Hill won two out of the three meetings with the Cadets but this one earned Benedictine the number three seed in the region.
That earned the Cadets the right to play Harris County (17-3, 22-3), region 2-AAA’s number two team. The Wildcats will travel to number one Columbus High School,( 18-2, 19-6) starting Friday for a best of three series over the week-end. Both are among the top ranked teams in the state, have split their season series, and will be a challenge of major proportions to both Richmond Hill and Benedictine.
This is Richmond Hill’s first trip to the state playoffs since 2004 and for a while on Tuesday it looked like it might not happen.
Scott Strickland got the start against the Razorbacks and had a rough first inning as they put together five hits and were helped by two Wildcat errors. Curry would explain afterward that he did not think Strickland was that far off of his game and under other circumstances would have let him try to work it out, but he also realized that there was no tomorrow, and when the third inning started Matt Schlag was on the hill to relieve.
Schlag (5-1) would hold Cross Creek to two runs, on two hits, while striking out five the rest of the way to earn the win. In the mean time his team was trying to get back some runs, but it wasn’t easy.
The Wildcats blew a couple of opportunities with base running mistakes but finally broke through in the fourth on John Johnson’s (2-4, 2 RBI's) two RBI single.
They picked away some more the next inning when Aaron Pittsley scored after him and Jeremy Goolsby led off the inning with singles. Two would cross the plate in the sixth on a Schlag sacrifice and a mis-played pop up at the plate.
Finally, after going back and forth in the last two innings and with the game tied at 6-6 the bottom half of the seventh would be the games final drama.
Josh Futch (3-5, 3b) led off with a hustle triple to the fence in left center field and after the Razorbacks intentionally loaded the bases and drew the infield and outfield in to little league depth, Schlag (2-3, 2 RBI's) hit a game winning single to right field to make himself and the team winners and state tournament qualified.
Against Benedictine Cameron Corbin got the start and would end up taking his first loss of the season against five wins but it would be a night for both teams bullpens to pick-up the work load.
The Cadets struck for seven runs in the first three innings against Corbin and reliever Alex Tucker to give their starter, Kyle Tootle, a big lead. Richmond Hill was hitting the ball hard but it seemed right in to the Benedictine defense. They scratched out two runs in the third inning and would make a gallant comeback in the fifth.
Scott Strickland reached on an error to start the inning, Aaron Pittsley followed with a single then Jeremy Goolsby hit three run homer and Josh Futch an RBI triple to help fuel the five run uprising.
The Cadets answered the call by bringing in Nick Keuler to put out the fire and pitch the final two innings of scoreless relief to pick up the save for the Cadets. Benedictine has streaked to ten wins in their last eleven games and a third consecutive win over a team that hot was just not in the cards for Richmond Hill.
Still, the Wildcats finished their regular season with one of the best records in memory at 19-7 and cam make the trip to Columbus knowing they have nothing left to prove to anyone.