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By BRAD CROWE
The Richton Rebels have been on a roll through two rounds of postseason play. Winners of their last five games, the Rebels swept their first two opponents to earn their place in this week’s Round 3 matchup with Stringer in another best-of-three series.
After only getting to play 11 games in 2020 before the season was ended due to COVID, head coach Josh Palmer said the extra reps his players are getting in the postseason will only help them continue improving.
“That’s what this whole year has been about,” Palmer said. “Even though we returned a lot of guys, most of them had only played 11 games coming into the season. Only three of our guys played during my first year here (in 2019). Devin Miller, one of our best hitters, didn’t even pick up a bat last year because of a wrist injury. So just the opportunity to be out here playing games that matter is awesome, and we’re excited.”
The benefit of having a full season of experience under their belts has been easy to see. Richton scored a combined total of 50 runs through its first four playoff games while only surrendering nine total runs to Nanih Waiya and McEvans.
Pitching has been a huge part of the Rebels’ success this month. Senior pitcher Jacob Broome has been at his best when it’s mattered most, tossing 22 strikeouts in his first two postseason starts.
“I feel like we’ve just improved all around,” Palmer said. “Obviously, pitching has been our best feature all year, and we’re still getting good production there. Our hitting has come around. We’ve hit a few 3-run bombs, and we’re finding ways to get on base in the bottom of the order and scratch out some runs. Defense has been solid. So we feel like we’re improving and getting hot at the right time.”
But Palmer and his players understand the challenge that lies ahead of them this weekend with the Red Devils, who are 18-10 on the season as the No. 2 seed out of Region 7-1A. They topped the Rebels 13-0 in a regular season contest last month, and Palmer said getting the result they want this time around will take his team’s best effort.
“Stringer is a really solid team,” Palmer said. “They’ve been here before, so they’re going to make us earn everything we get.
“Again, we’re just excited to be in the position we’re in. We’re going to give it our best, hopefully have our best series and keep fighting, regardless of what happens in Game 1.”
The first pitch of Game 1 is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Stringer. No game will be played on Friday due to Stringer’s graduation ceremony, but the Rebels will host the Red Devils in Game 2 on Saturday. If needed, a Game 3 will be played at Stringer on Monday evening to determine who will advance to the South State Championship series.