Only time will tell if Garrett Wright’s dominating performance in a 2-0 win over Camden County last Friday will serve as a turning point in Richmond Hill High School's baseball season.
The Wildcats struggled in the early going under first-year coach Hill Thomas and got swept by Lowndes County in their Region 1-7A opening three-game series. In getting outscored, 32-9, Richmond Hill saw any hopes of winning a region championship all but squashed right off the bat.
First-year Coach Hill Thomas was upset and concerned by his team’s play, especially its lack of production at the plate and inconsistency on the mound.
Then came a three-game non-region set with old rival Brunswick in which the Wildcats, won twice to give them a shot in the arm going into a series with region rival Camden County.
A 9-2 road win in the opener behind Hunter Legas, set up the crucial second game which was the first of a doubleheader at Wildcats Field.
Wright was dazzling as the senior left-hander struck out 16, walked one and allowed only two hits in securing a series win. That set the stage for fellow junior left-hander Bryce Hendricks, who followed with a 12-strikeout performance in a 7-0 win.
“This was a big game for me and the team,” Wright said. “Coming back from Lowndes where I really didn’t do so well I really had to zone in. I really wanted to get this second win for our team,” he said.
“I wanted to come out focused and see what happens. This series was big for us, getting back on that region roller coaster, going down and coming back up. I was just trying to get us back up and this was definitely the way to do it.”
Wright, who has signed to play for Augusta University of the Peach Belt Conference, got the only run he needed when Alex Harwood jumped on the first pitch he saw leading off the fourth inning and taking advantage of a prevailing win cleared the fence in dead center.
Legas made it a 2-0 game in the sixth when he singled, advanced to third on an errant pickoff play and then scored on a wild pitch.
“Getting the extra run was nice but I didn’t even think about it,” Wright said. “I was relaxed the whole time.”
Wright was rocked for eight runs in 2.1 innings at Lowndes but in a 1-0 loss to Brunswick he struck out six and didn’t walk anyone in 3.2 innings of hitless relief hitless. His last two outings has seen him lower his ERA to 4.34 and WHIP to 1.2400.
Hendricks, a standout on the basketball team, used a mind-bending curveball to keep the Wildcats off balance from the start. He gave up four hits and did not walk a batter.
Blayne Newman, who pitched a scoreless seventh, had a two-run triple in the first and the Wildcats added a run in the second and two more in the fourth and fifth inning
With five wins in its last six games Richmond Hill will be looking to sustain that momentum when it squares off against Valdosta (13-8, 4-2) this week. They play at Valdosta on Tuesday and have a doubleheader at 5 p.m. Friday at Richmond Hill.
“We’re starting to play better baseball,” Thomas said. “I think a lot of that has to do with everybody is learning to accept their roles and being ready at any time.
“Hats off to our starting pitching this week,” Thomas said. “Before he came up, I told Alex to be aggressive. He was and he got hold of it and took it out of here. That sparked us up a bit…we needed that.”
With Lowndes (12-11, 6-0) having virtually locked up its fifth straight region championship barring a total collapse the fight is on for second-place. Valdosta is currently second followed by the Wildcats, Colquitt County (10-11, 4-5) and Camden (6-13, 1-8).
Each team plays 12 region games. In addition to Valdosta the Wildcats have Colquitt remaining while Lowndes has Camden and Valdosta.