RALEIGH — Millbrook will head back to Rockingham on Friday, now tied in a best-of-three series for a chance to go to the state championship.
The No. 2-seed Wildcats were held scoreless Thursday in a 2-0 loss to No. 1 Richmond County in Game 2 of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A East regional finals.
“We didn’t look great at the plate, but credit to their lefty. He was really solid and got stronger as the night went on, but we’ll definitely have to be better than that tomorrow night,” Millbrook coach Austin James said.
Richmond senior pitcher Nic Bullard allowed just three hits while striking out 10, including the final six batters for the win.
The Raiders (22-7-1) opened things up in the top of the third when leadoff hitter Kevin Lee reached on a single, stole second and advanced to third on a Cody Leviner single.
Lee scored when Millbrook came up short on a pick-off attempt as Leviner went for the steal at second. Leviner was safe, and Lee crossed home plate.
Mike Rush, third up to bat for the Raiders in the inning, reached first on a fielder’s choice before stealing second and scoring on a Bradley Brown single.
The Wildcats (20-9) gave up four of six hits for the game in that inning, and the Raiders’ two-run lead would stand behind the Richmond defense.
“They got a couple of hits in just the perfect spot – one in the hole between short and third and then a bloop over second base – but credit to them, when they had to get a hit they did, and the few chances that we did we didn’t capitalize,” James said.
Millbrook left five runners stranded throughout the game, including in the bottom of the third when senior Brian Miller tripled with one out on the board, but the Wildcats couldn’t bring him in for the score.
The Raiders coupled aggressive base-running on offense with solid defense to stay alive Thursday and take the series back home for a third and deciding game.
“I thought the first game was a little uncharacteristic for us, but I thought tonight was a little more our style,” Richmond coach Ricky Young said. “When we play good defense, we feel we can beat anybody . ... We just wanted to extend it to three games and we were able to do that.”
Alex Royalty pitched a complete game for Millbrook, striking out three.
The deciding game Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Richmond, where Millbrook took a 6-5 win in Game 1 Tuesday. The winner goes on to face West Forsyth, the West regional winner, in a best-of-three series next week for the state title.
Richmond has come up short in regional finals Game 3 situations the past two seasons. Millbrook is in the regional finals for the first time since 1993.
“I (told the team) you’ve got no time to pout. You’ve got to get over it because both of these teams are in the exact same situation at this point,” James said. “It’s kind of weird that both teams won on the road, so not that that’s any advantage for us by any means, but to know that we’ve already won there is a little bit of comfort, I guess. So I just told them now it’s basically a 0-0 game. It’s a one-game series at this point.”