Richmond Hill baseball has shined brightly for most of this early season.
Except for a few innings of unexplainable, inexplicable, and now add to the adjectives “bizarre”, failings that have led to all three of their losses - the Wildcats could have easily been undefeated.
The most recent a 4-3 loss at Bradwell, a team they beat handily less than two weeks earlier, had performed the latest voodoo via the bunt in the fourth inning after two were already out.
After witnessing Richmond Hill’s Alex Tucker cruise through three and two thirds innings making his Tiger team look tame, Bradwell head coach Rhett Hellgren decided to turn conventional baseball wisdom on its ear.
His clean-up hitter was at the plate with two outs and nobody on, and he was going to bunt.
Nick Franks laid down the bunt and beat out the throw for his teams first hit. Franks then stole second base, a single, a couple of more bunts, a hits batsman and a couple of errors led to four runs and the Wildcats second two out meltdown in as many games.
A seven run fourth inning after two were out cost them a game against Jenkins. Against Brunswick, Richmond Hill’s only other loss, they blew a comfortable lead in the seventh inning to allow the comeback.
Three innings, three losses. That’s not bad news in 65 innings of baseball. As hard as it was for the Wildcats to swallow Wednesday’s loss, they need to look at the big picture and realize they are still a good team, especially with the onset of the region schedule here. More concerning than the four run fourth was the Wildcats inability to hit the ball against Bradwell.
Richmond Hill scored in the first after Matt Schlag’s single, Nathan Kilburn’s double and Aaron Pittsley’s RBI ground out. Jeremy Goolsby scored in the second after getting on board with a walk and scoring on DH John Johnson’s RBI ground out. Goolsby would score again in the fourth on Pittsley sacrifice fly. They were picking at starter Steven Dill and never could get a big hit when they needed it.
After Bradwell went ahead in the fourth inning, Franks relieved Dill on the mound and preserved the win by allowing only one other hit the rest of the way. A stark contrast from their first meeting when the Wildcats exploded for 14 runs in five innings against the Tigers. This time around, Bradwell’s pitchers had more control of the strike zone and stayed away from Richmond Hill’s power.
Alex Tucker certainly deserved a better fate. The Wildcat junior was sharp the whole game, he gave up only four hits, two of them from the bunt parade in the fourth. Tucker struck out five with out walking a batter. His ability to change speeds and keep the ball in the strike zone led to 14 put outs by his defense, which except for that fourth inning, played another exceptional game.
Bradwell Institute improved to 2-8, 1-1 in region 3-AAAAA. The Wildcats fell to 7-3 and open their region schedule this week.
They travel to Effingham County today for a 2 p.m. game and then are home against Liberty County Tuesday, March 27 at 5:30 p.m. Friday March 30 they will play at Benedictine, a 4 p.m. start.