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PLAYOFF PREVIEW: No. 24 Raiders travel to familiar foe No. 9 Purnell Swett in the first round

The No. 24 Raiders travel to No. 9 Purnell Swett on Tuesday. (Kyle Pillar, Sports Editor)

CHAPEL HILL – A familiar opponent will be the first of many hopeful playoff opponents for the Richmond Senior High School baseball team.

The NCHSAA released the final 4A East State playoff brackets on Monday around 2 p.m., pairing the No. 24 Raiders with No. 9 Purnell Swett High School.

Former conference foes under the previous lineup, Richmond and Purnell Swett, will meet for the second time this season in the opening round.

Bringing their blue-collar swagger, rooted in the program’s tradition, to the playoffs, bolstered by head coach Eric Brown in his first season at his alma mater, the Raiders will look to upset the Rams and head coach Jeff Lamb.

The past two seasons, Richmond has made the 4A postseason. The 2022 trip ended in the second round, while last season resulted in a first-round exit at Millbrook.

The NCHSAA uses a formula to determine each team’s rating percentage index (RPI) to determine playoff seeding. The Raiders had a final RPI of 0.53617 (25th best in the 4A East), while the Rams finished with a 0.53339 RPI (22nd best in the 4A East).

Other factors included in a team’s final RPI are winning percentage, opponent winning percentage, and opponent winning percentage.

Richmond’s line was a 0.60870 WP, 0.49067 OWP and a 0.52432 OOWP. The Rams posted a 0.68000 WP, 0.47815 OWP and a 0.48242 OOWP.

The Raiders (14-9) and Rams (17-8) met for a non-conference game on March 20 at Raider Field. Richmond fans will remember that early-season game that ended in walk-off fashion.

After trailing 2-0 starting in the fourth inning, the Raiders rallied to score all their runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and won 3-2.

With the bases loaded and no outs, freshman Collin Hill ripped a two-run double off reliever Chandon Sanderson to tie the game. Two pitches later, junior Landon Taylor walked an RBI single to center field.

Since that meeting nearly eight weeks ago, Richmond has played 15 games and compiled an 8-7 record, including winning four of its last five games entering the playoffs.

The Rams played 18 games and posted an overall record of 13–5, with one forfeit win and a weaker schedule than Richmond’s.

The Raiders posted their best finish since 2019 in the 3A/4A Sandhills Athletic Conference standings, taking second place with a 9-3 record. Purnell Swett also finished second in the 3A/4A United 8 Conference at 13-3.

Purnell Swett finished as the top 4A school in the United 8, giving the Rams a higher playoff seed. The Raiders were the second 4A school in the SAC, behind conference winner Pinecrest High School.

During their 23 games this spring, the Raiders averaged 5.91 runs per seven innings. Defensively, they have allowed 4.95 runs against.

The Rams, who have played two more games overall, are averaging 8.04 runs for and 4.24 runs against this spring.

The go-to starter for Richmond this spring is senior James Eason, who will likely rise to the challenge against the Rams. He made ten starts and posted a 6–4 record, with seven of those appearances counting as complete games.

Eason enters the postseason with a 2.02 earned run average in 58.2 innings pitched. He struckout 42 batters and held opponents to a .252 batting average.

Purnell Swett has pitched more in committee this season, with the most pitched players being Jacob Chavis (40 innings, 3-1, 2.10 ERA), Sanderson (32 innings, 5-3, 1.53 ERA) and Aaron Locklear (30.2 innings , 3-2, 2.05 ERA).

The No. 24 Raiders will make the business trip east to No. 9 Purnell Swett on Tuesday. The first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m