Assessment of Richmond Hill’s recent fortunes at the hands of their region 3-AAA opponents could be characterized as a study of English language contractions - could’ve, should’ve and for their most recent 4-3 loss to Burke County - would’ve.
The loss has left the Wildcats at 6-7 overall and more importantly 0-4 in the sub-region with just Hephzibah left to face for the first time, in what now looks like an uphill battle to returning to post season play.
The "would have" game came at Liberty County, a three run loss that lacked enough offensive support to quite stay with the Panthers. The "should have" game loss at home to Benedictine, where the Wildcats saw a comfortable and early lead painfully disappear late in the game. "Could have" game - a Houdini like performance of their pitching staff that kept them precariously in front of the visiting Bears until a last inning two run let down - was the difference.
Raul Rodriguez, the heir apparent of the starting rotation, took the mound and managed to keep out of early inning trouble by pitching around two errors and a walk to hold the Bears to just one run. It would be a pattern he and his bullpen mates to follow would continue throughout. His team mates had managed a two run edge in the first and he would need all of it.
The Wildcats led off their half of the first with base hits from lead off man Tyler Mitchell, followed by another single by Cody Crow and a walk to catcher John Johnson had the bases loaded with nobody out and seemingly a chance for a big inning. Jeremy Goolsby followed with a hard ground ball off the Bear third baseman for an RBI and then a passed ball would score another, but the big inning opportunity fizzed with a base running out, a strike out and a ground out. The Bears starter Trent Hillis had a little bit of the Houdini in him too.
Neither starting pitcher figured in the final score. Hillis pitched five complete innings and stranded seven Wildcat base runners while striking out eight and Rodriguez pitched four complete, and struck out four and left seven Bears runners on the bags. Ryan Dickey and Alex Tucker would strand six base runners in relief of Rodriguez, but the high wire act crashed in the seventh.
Dickey came on in the fifth after a walk and managed to work around an error and a single allowing just one run to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Wildcats. Tucker took over in the sixth again with the bases loaded, this time with nobody out and the Richmond Hill senior got two ground outs and a pop fly to get out of the inning unscathed. Another error in the seventh allowed the Bears another opportunity and they cashed it in with back to back RBI hits to take the lead.
Richmond Hill managed seven hits led by Cody Crow who went 2 for 4 on the day, but couldn’t manage to get the hits when they would count the most and made a couple of base running mistakes that cost them opportunities. They did battle, however, and even had the home crowd on the edge of their seats in the seventh.
With Cody Bolden relieving for the Bears, the Wildcats made two quick outs then Rodriguez was hit by a pitch. Designated hitter Nathan Kilburn followed with a single and both runners moved in to scoring position on passed balls. Sophomore Catcher Cody Rushing battled valiantly at the plate fouling off several pitches but was finally struck out to end the game, but as they have done all season the team battled to the end.
Richmond Hill will play Brantley County today at home, a 5:30 p.m. start then host South Effingham on Friday at 6 p.m.