With two outs, the ball in center field and Tanner Marlow heading to third base, Tyler Lairson still did not consider trying his luck and sending the junior home in extra innings.
Instead, Richmond’s first-year coach had confidence in the bat of Tyler Slawson.
Slawson rewarded that faith in a big way. His two-out, eighth-inning single brought Marlow home — and lifted the Red Devils to a 5-4 season-opening victory over Hagerstown on Tuesday at McBride Stadium.
“It felt great,” Slawson said.
“I was thinking, ‘Get a base rip. Get the job done.’ That’s all that was going through my mind, and I wasn’t going to do anything less.”
Marlow walked, broke for second for a stolen base, then made his way to third base after the throw sailed into center field.
He soon slid safely into third, setting up Marlow’s decisive base hit between shortstop and third base and into left field.
“Absolutely not,” Lairson said when asked of trying to get Slawson from first all the way to home. “There’s always a chance, and you watch the relay. At this point in time, I felt confident the way Slawson has been swinging it.”
It was Marlow’s turn to come through first, a few innings earlier.
He sliced a two-run triple into the left-center-field gap — also with two outs — in the bottom of the sixth inning, then scored on the same play after a throwing error.
That put Richmond ahead 4-3, though Hagerstown’s Dylan Woolard scored on a wild pitch in the seventh inning to tie the game and force extra innings.
“I think we played a great game,” said Hagerstown coach Brad Catey.
“Overall, outside of the scoreboard, I thought we had a pretty good victory tonight. We hit the ball hard. We played pretty good defense for the most part. We had a few times we threw the ball around. We have to work on that and get better. For the first game of the season, I like where we’re at.”
Hagerstown had plenty of positives Tuesday night, not the least of which was the starting battery for the defending Tri-Eastern Conference and Class 2A sectional champs.
Left-hander Sam Reagan threw into the sixth inning, struck out seven and scattered four hits. Starting catcher Bryan Mathews recorded five total pick-offs — four from behind the plate and another from the mound when he took over for relief with two outs in the bottom of the sixth.
“My cap’s off to them and their ballclub, and their starter,” Lairson said of the Tigers. “I thought he did a great job.
“They really did a good job of keeping us off balance. They capitalized on mistakes we made early. Always take a win. Saw a lot of positives, but a lot of things we need to work on.”
Isaak Snyder scored Richmond’s first run in the bottom of the first, while Slawson and Marlow finished with two hits each.
Kendal Baker also had a hit for RHS, with Jordan Christian throwing five solid innings to start on the mound.
Slawson and Nate Flannery pitched in relief for the Red Devils. Flannery earned the pitching victory as the Red Devils helped Lairson, a Richmond High School graduate, to victory in his first game as the team’s head coach.
“I think the one thing you take away tonight is the character we showed of different guys throughout the game picking each other up,” Lairson said. “Nate Flannery comes in, does a great job, picks a guy off. We make an error, and he comes right back and gets a ground ball. Tanner Marlow picking up some big RBIs there. I think that’s the thing you can take the most is the character, the ability to persevere.”
Garrett Wilson had a first-inning RBI for the Tigers, and Hagerstown led until Marlow’s two-run triple in the sixth.
Trevor Bradway, Tyler Funkhouser, Reagan, Kyle Beeson and Woolard all had hits for Hagerstown (0-1), which returns to action next Tuesday at Seton Catholic.
“We’ll be all right. We just have to come back to work,” Catey said.
Richmond (1-0) plays host to Ohio foe Eaton in a doubleheader Saturday at McBride Stadium.
“It’s going to be a good feeling,” Slawson said of returning to action against the Eagles. “I think we won’t be nervous. The first game, since it’s out of the way, it will be a lot better next time around.”