RALEIGH — It was the classic pitchers’ duel between Richmond Senior’s Nic Bullard and Millbrook’s Alex Royalty.
The difference in the game came down to one inning — the third.
Richmond scored the contest’s only runs in the frame to pull out a 2-0 victory Thursday night at Millbrook in Game 2 of the 4A East Region final series. The decisive third game is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Raider Field.
Both Bullard and Royalty tossed complete games. Bullard allowed three hits, walked two and struck out 10. Royalty matched Bullard pitch for pitch, surrendering six hits, two earned runs, walked one and had four strikeouts.
“He’s been our stud for three years. He’s pitched in a lot of big games for us,” Richmond coach Ricky Young said about Bullard.
Bullard said he and the rest of team had to prove a point in winning the game and getting the chance to advance to the state championship series. Richmond has lost the East Region series in three games the last two years with Bullard taking the loss in both of those decisive contests.
“I had to take care of some personal business out there,” Bullard said. “We all have a personal thing. We’re going to come out fighting (tomorrow).”
Bullard retired the final seven batters he faced, including striking out the side in both the sixth and seventh innings to close out the win. Bullard allowed just three runners to advance into scoring position in the contest.
“They put up a great fight,” Bullard said. “They have a good defense and great pitching.”
Richmond was able to do just enough offensively to keep its championship hopes alive and allow Bullard to get the victory.
In the third, the Raiders recorded four of the six hits allowed by Royalty.
Kevin Lee opened the inning with a single and stole second. Cody Leviner followed with a single to move Lee to third. With Mike Rush up, Young called for a double steal. Leviner broke for second and Millbrook catcher Connor McKinney bounced the throw to shortstop Brian Miller, who was cutting in front of the bag.
The errant throw allowed Lee to easily score the game’s first run. Rush then bounced into a fielder’s choice as Miller was able to cut down Leviner at third. Following a strikeout, Bradley Brown plated Rush with a single to close out the scoring.
“I give them credit for getting the big hits, they found the holes,” Millbrook coach Austin James said. “Nic threw a great game. He had us off balance and guessing.”
Millbrook’s top of the lineup — Miller and Chris Scott — was held in check by Bullard. In Game 1, the duo reached base safely in all eight of their plate appearances. This time Miller had a triple and a walk, while Scott was hitless in his three at-bats with two strikeouts.
The Game 3 matchup on the mound is expected to be Millbrook’s Scott vs. Richmond’s James Buie.
“Forget the first two games, it’s down to a one-game series,” James said. “We have to play better than we did tonight.”
Young added he is not focused on Richmond’s Game 3 performances the last two seasons.
“I’m not going to compare this team to the previous two,” Young said. “We wanted to get back home and force a third game. We were able to do it.”