Red-hot Richland Northeast capped a magical week in Region 4-4A baseball with a come-from-behind 7-6 win over Irmo on Friday. Fittingly, the Cavaliers' ninth win in a row clinched a state playoff berth on Senior Night.
“It’s been a great run, that’s for sure,” said RNE coach Thane Maness. “The goal from the beginning of the season was to get back to the state playoffs for our nine seniors. That what makes the last few weeks so special.”
Earlier in the week RNE beat Dutch Fork (9-8) and Ridge View (10-7) with seventh-inning moves. This time, the Cavaliers didn’t wait as long, but did have to rally from 5-0 and 6-1 early deficits.
“Early on, we just could hit the ball, now we’ve getting contributions from a lot of different guys in big situations,” said Maness. “And we’re still getting good pitching and playing excellent defense. Winning is contagious. Everybody has brought into what we’re trying to do and nobody wants to let the team down.”
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On Tuesday and Wednesday, senior Justin Voelkel was the hero. He drew a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh inning at home to cap a four-run rally to victory against Dutch Fork. The following night, Voelkel broke a 7-7 tie with a leadoff solo home run in the top of the seventh inning at Ridge View.
Last night, the man of the hour was senior Justin Washburn.
Washburn made up for a poor mound outing by hitting a three-run homer in the fourth inning to cut the Irmo lead to 6-5, and delivering what proved to be a game-winning, two-run single in the fifth.
Washburn lasted just 1.1 innings in his starting mound assignment, allowing five runs and five hits. He reentered the game as a pinch hitter for eighth-grader Ryne Maness, who relieved him on the hill in the second. Washburn lofted a fly ball the other way that clear the short right field fence in the vicinity of the foul pole. Irmo contended the ball was foul; the umpires ruled otherwise.
It was the turning point. RNE was fired up, brimming with confidence that it could again find a way to pull one out. Irmo, on the other hand, seemed to turn apprehensive and tentative.
The youthful Maness helped stop the bleeding, but senior Jason Mohn was the star on the bump. Mohn took over for Maness in the fifth inning and tossed three scoreless innings to pick up the win. He allowed two harmless two singles, struck lout four and walked no one. Mohn struck out the side to close it out after Robbie Morris opened the Irmo seventh with a single.
In all, RNE rapped 12 hits against three Irmo pitchers. Kevin Fulmer and Jarael Jenkins joined Washburn in the offensive spotlight. Both went 2-for-3 and scored two runs apiece. Jenkins led off the second with a double to center field and scored the Cavs’ first run of the game on Michael Meir’s perfect squeeze bunt. He set up Washburn’s game-winning hit with a double down the left field line after Fulmer opened the fifth with a single.
Morris and Jackson Shuford led the Yellow Jackets’ 11-hit attack with three hits apiece. Shuford drove in one run in the top of the first and two more in the second.
Richland Northeast is 12-8 overall and 7-4 in region matters. Irmo, meanwhile is as cold as the Cavaliers are hot. The Jackets have lost five in a row, seven of their last eight. Irmo (5-13, 3-8) has one region date left against Lugoff-Elgin, another playoff bubble team.