By Maurice Patton
LYNNVILLE — Timely hits. Richland didn’t get them in a road loss Monday against Santa Fe.
Playing at home Tuesday, though, the Raiders did come through when it counted offensively – and kept the Wildcats from doing so – in a 10-0, five-inning victory that secured the District 10-A regular-season championship.
“We did a little better job of being selective, and we got some big hits when we needed them,” veteran Richland coach Troy Hughes said after his team shook off a 5-3 loss a day prior that set up the winner-take-all-clash.
“We’ve talked all year (about) we’ve played a tough schedule. I did that on purpose. We lost some games this year. We’ve failed, but we’ve gotten better. (Monday) we didn’t lose the game; we got beat. We’ve got baseball guys that are smart enough to know, we didn’t beat ourselves. So it was pretty easy for them to say ‘next game’.”
Santa Fe wasn’t able to carry over its offensive momentum from the first game. Colton Steward and Logan Wilkins led off the first and second innings with doubles, but their teammates were unable to get either of them across the plate.
“That was huge,” Wildcats coach Rip Baxter said “You can’t win if you’re not scoring runs. We had a hit-and-run on one time, had a bunt on one time. We missed signals – inexperienced, not paying attention.
“When you’ve got runs to drive in, you’ve got to drive them in.”
Richland (14-8, 7-1) did. After stranding seven in Monday’s loss, the Raiders batted around in a five-run second and added a run in the third on three more singles before ending the contest with four runs in the fifth to invoke the mercy rule.
After banging out nine hits – all singles – though, Hughes was effusive in his praise of starting pitcher Sam Edwards and reliever Landon Griggs.
“With us, it starts on the mound,” he said. “Sam came out and threw strikes. When he throws strikes, when any of our guys throws strikes, we’ve got as good a defense as anybody in the state, from Class A to Class AAA.
“All we need is a pitcher to throw strikes. We’re going to field it and throw them out. Sam did an excellent job of doing that.”
Indeed, the Raiders played error-free ball Tuesday along with getting two hits each from Jase Derryberry and Rob Turner. Derryberry and Austin Schrengost each drove in a pair of runs.
After the second inning, meanwhile, Santa Fe (13-7-1, 5-3) only created one other scoring opportunity. Edwards walked two of the three batters he faced in the fifth, before Griggs relieved and issued a walk to Steward. The Raiders squelched the threat by turning a double play on Josh Martin’s grounder, before finishing the game in their following at-bat.
“Troy does a good job,” Baxter said. “They did what they had to do. They did what we didn’t do.”
With Richland nailing down the top seed for the upcoming district tournament, Santa Fe drops to third after being swept by Mt. Pleasant last week. The Tigers will be the No. 2 seed, with Culleoka and Hampshire rounding out the field.
“From top to bottom, this is as competitive as this district has been in several years,” Hughes said. “Going into the tournament, I’m not going to say Richland is the favorite. Culleoka is capable of beating you, Mt. Pleasant is very capable of beating you.
“It’s going to be a very exciting tournament.”
Richland 10, Santa Fe 0 (5 inn.)
S 000 00 – 0 2 2
R 005 14 – 10 9 0
Josh Martin, Colton Steward (4) and Colton Steward, Macon Adkison (4). Sam Edwards, Landon Griggs (5) and Landon Griggs, Houston Cheek (5). W: Edwards. L: Martin.
Photos by Ric Beu / SM-Tn Sports