No rest for the weary.
Richmond Hill baseball is hungry to pick up where it left off with its second place sub-region finish and state playoff appearance. Now a dugout full of current and future Wildcats have been hitting the South Georgia diamonds this summer in hopes that their efforts will get them back to the playoffs again next season; this time as region champions. Those are the kind of goals and kind of commitments that successful organizations aspire to.
During a recent game at home against Benedictine any casual Wildcat fan would be inspired to have seen their team out number their region nemesis by a large amount in the dugout. While the Cadets had just enough to field a team, nine - it was standing room only in the Wildcat dugout and they used a variety of pitchers and position players to pull off a 7-4 win.
One of those pitching hopefuls, Alex Tucker, got the start and pitched a scoreless first inning but got in to trouble with two outs in the second. Benedictine strung together three base hits with the bases loaded before Tucker got out of the mess down by three. In the bottom half his first baseman would start the comeback.
Jeremy Goolsby worked his lead off at bat to a 3 ball and 1 strike count and showed the few in attendance why they call it the cripple pitch. His home run cleared the "welcome to Wildcat Field" sign in left center field by several feet and continued through the trees. He followed up the blast with a single and an RBI double on the night as well and he was joined by several of his team mates who also added some stellar pitching and good defense to boot.Taylor Smith led off for Richmond Hill and had a triple and an RBI single. Raul Rodriguez had a triple and scored a run, Kevin Wilson had a pair of singles and scored a run as well. It was judicious use of their offense to get that many runs but also a team pitching effort that held off the Cadets.
Ben Auger took over for Tucker in the third and pitched two scoreless innings with a couple of strikeouts. Conner Skelley was up next and gave up only one unearned run, then Matt Graney finished the game without giving up a hit. It was a good team effort and coach Sean Strickland would have praise for them afterward.
"All five seniors have really stepped it up this summer,(Goolsby, Rodriguez, Graney, Auger, and Tucker) not only at the plate and from the mound but also showing the younger guys the proper way to warm up or leading from the dugout by cheering their team mates, everything I have asked from them they have done and with leadership" praised Strickland on his teams summer thus far.
The Wildcats are now 11-9 this summer and will play host Thursday night, with a chance to play in the Georgia Recreation and Parks Association state tournament. The district double header against Appling County will start at 6 p.m. at Wildcat Field if a third game is necessary it would be on Monday. The winner will play in the GRPA state tournament held in July.
Coaches Sean Strickland, Chris Willis, and Seth Strickland have been using as many of the wealth of participants this summer as possible. In Strickland’s words that is one of the most important things they accomplish in the summer.
"It gives some of them a chance to fill in roles that they may not have been exposed to, it gives them a chance to be on the field, in a real game, before they have to do it in February" said Strickland. The ups and downs of that philosophy were never more evident than this past week-end when they made a trip to Southwest Georgia for some action.
On Friday they beat Early County in the first game 9-2 and then in the second game played what Strickland called "close to perfect" baseball. In the 6-0 win at Thomasville Josh Candelario and Ben Auger combined for the shutout and was backed up by an error free defense and a solid offense. On the downside they lost both of their games on Saturday and committed 15 errors. Another good lesson learned, one game does not guarantee the next..
Still Strickland bragged that the defense has turned 15 double plays in 20 games and is very encouraged about their future. The kind of commitment that it takes to play like they did on Friday consistently versus the bad games like they had on Saturday is increasingly a year round one.
"Baseball is really a year round commitment for those that want to compete at a higher level" said Strickland. "Maybe not playing year round but certainly working out, lifting weights, pitching, hitting... you really do have to stay focused on baseball."
At least they’re off to a good start this summer.