By Maurice Patton
SANTA FE – With two outs, a runner on and a base open in a two-run game – the number of runs Carter Seltz drove in with his first-inning home run – putting Seltz on was the right move for Richland coach Troy Hughes in the fifth inning of his team’s District 10-A matchup Monday with host Santa Fe.
There was still room for the intentional walk to backfire, though, and it did as Peyton Wilhelm crushed Rob Turner’s first pitch to the base of the center-field fence, driving in Seltz and Colton Steward with the eventual game-deciding runs as the Wildcats won 5-3.
It marks the first league loss for Richland, and puts Santa Fe in position to claim the district title when the two teams meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in Lynnville.
“I think that’s what we’ve got to do,” Hughes said of the decision to set up a force and pitch to Wilhelm, who had walked and hit into a fielder’s choice in his two prior plate appearances. “The guy did a good job. He came through in a big way. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap.”
Looking at a chance to extend his team’s early lead, Wilhelm only had one thing on his mind – and it wasn’t proving a point.
“I’ve got to get a hit, get on base somehow, put the ball in play; that was the main thing I was thinking,” he said.
Upon contact, though, he admitted he had hopes of grandeur.
“I started jogging. I thought it went out,” he said. “But it worked out well. It feels good.”
Up by four, Santa Fe (13-6-1, 5-2) was able to withstand single Raider scores in the sixth and seventh as Seltz and relievers Josh Martin and Steward were able to limit the visitors late.
“I’m just proud of ‘em, after the Mt. Pleasant series,” Wildcats coach Rip Baxter said. “We didn’t play well. This is the worst skid we’ve been on all year.
“We had to come out and get refocused. I think they’re locked in; hopefully they’ll be locked in (Tuesday).”
Seltz was – striking out six in six innings and holding Richland (13-8, 5-1) to two runs on four hits before giving way to his bullpen.
“He pitched us ‘backwards’,” Hughes said. “I didn’t think we were selective enough at the plate. We swung at pitcher’s pitches, and we hit them but we didn’t do enough with them. If we’d been more selective, maybe we could have gotten his pitching count up. But he did a good job of making us hit his pitches.
“I told our guys, keep your heads up. That’s baseball. There’s no more of this (winning) 19-2 stuff. We’ll come back (Tuesday) and see if we can get it done. But they got the hits when they needed them, and we didn’t do that.”
Seltz gave his team a boost early, going deep with Steward aboard for a 2-0 first-inning lead and driving Steward home with an infield groundout in the third after Richland got on the scoreboard with a second-inning Landon Griggs double and a Turner RBI base hit.
Griggs, who had two of Richland’s five hits, drove in a sixth-inning run, with Herlan Duran plating Bryce Miller in the seventh. Steward had two of Santa Fe’s six hits.
“I told them we’d have to manufacture some runs,” Baxter said. “Carter gave us a little cushion, and then we manufactured one before Peyton drove in those two.
“I told (Wilhelm), that’s a challenge. He came through big right there.”
Santa Fe 5, Richland 3
R 010 001 1 – 3 5 1
S 201 020 x – 5 6 1
Rob Turner, Bryce Miller (6) and Landon Griggs. Carter Seltz, Josh Martin (7), Colton Steward (7) and Colton Steward, Macon Adkison (7). W: Seltz. L: Turner. S: Steward. HR: Santa Fe – Seltz.
Photos by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports