Raiders’ lineup steady from top to bottom

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By Dan Hiner

The South Range High School baseball team’s pitchers have received a lot of credit for getting the Raiders to their first state semifinal appearance.

But the Raiders’ lineup has come through with timely hits since their district final win over Mogadore and will look to do more of the same against Cincinnati Madeira on Thursday in Columbus.

For most teams, the middle of the order drives in the bulk of the runs. However, the Raiders have gotten production from their leadoff hitter to their ninth batter.

The Raiders’ bottom third of the order has hit .318 and drove in six runs in the last three games.

Mike Cunningham, the Raiders’ seven hitter, has led the bottom third — going 4-for-8 with four RBIs.

“Everyone’s focusing on doing their job,” Cunningham said. “The bottom of the order is focused on getting base hits for the bigger guys like Ben [Rivera] can hit us around.”

South Range doesn’t generate a lot of power — nine hitter Kris Scandy hit the Raiders’ only home run this season. Instead, the Raiders have relied on key singles and doubles throughout the lineup.

“One through nine’s hitting the ball well,” Brycen James said. “Expect more of that, maybe a couple more deep shots from some guys you wouldn’t expect. I think [some players] are gonna bust out of their shell and show us what they got.”

South Range head coach Jim Hanek’s strategy has been simple during the playoffs. He wants to jump in front early and turn the game over to his defense and pitching.

Brandon Youngs, James and Rivera helped the Raiders grab an early lead in their last few tournament games. The Raiders have outscored opponents 4-2 in the first inning over the last three games before turning the game over to pitchers Jake Gehring and Sam Brooks.

Rivera, the Raiders’ cleanup hitter, has gone 6-for-9 with four RBIs and four runs scored over the last three games.

James, the Raiders’ three hitter, hasn’t driven in a run over that stretch but scored four times.

“The middle of the order has been doing the same thing as the top and bottom of the order,” James said. “I know what they expect from me and they know what I expect from them. We’re expected to do our job and produce.”

The Raiders have been relaxed leading up to their state semifinal. No one is forcing an at-bat or trying to do too much. James said that’s a result of the team chemistry and having a veteran roster.

“We rely on each other and we know what we’re capable of, we know what the other guys gonna do,” James said. “We’re confident in each other and I think that relaxes us a little bit more, especially when we got pitchers like Brandon, Sam and Jake on the mound to help us out.”

Youngs said the players are helping keep a positive attitude during their games. The hitters remind themselves of their responsibilities, and if someone doesn’t get the job done, a teammate is there to pick them up.

“If there’s a runner on third with one out, and someone doesn’t get them in, we don’t yell at that person,” Youngs said. “We try to stay positive so when the next person comes up they have a positive attitude, they’re ready and they can get that hit. One hit’s all we need.”

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