RICHMOND — Coach Ryan Gardner wanted the Richmond baseball team to get off to a good start this season. The Bobcats have taken that to include games as well.

Richmond scored three runs in the first inning to take control of its Class D tilt against Valley, eventually rolling to an 11-1, five-inning win over the Cavaliers in an East/West Conference game Thursday.

It was a rematch of the Class D South semifinal matchup between the two teams, a 4-1 Valley victory, but it was a game between programs going in opposite directions. Richmond allowed no hits in the shortened contest en route to improving to 5-1, while a rebuilding Valley team fell to 0-3.

“Pitching’s coming around, now the bats are getting hotter,” Gardner said. “We’re starting to get the ball out in the outfield more, and when we do that, we run the bases really well. We put a lot of pressure on people.”

The Bobcats have made sure they apply that pressure early. In its last three games, all victories, Richmond has scored 14 first-inning runs.

“It makes things a lot easier if you come out, score some runs and put some pressure on,” Gardner said. “Then you can kind of exhale and go ‘OK, we’ve kind of got them on the ropes a bit.’ … They’re seeing that now. If we can come out and jump on somebody, get their heads down, it’s to our advantage.”

Richmond got its first inning started with a bunt single by Matt Rines, and after Brendan Emmons reached on an error, Rines eventually came in on a passed ball and Emmons scored on a Zach Small sacrifice fly to make it 2-0. Nate Kendrick rounded out the scoring for the inning with a hard single to left to score Tristan Shea, who had reached on another error.

“We want to get going early on teams so we can have a little bit of slack,” Kendrick said. “We can make a little room for one or two errors.”

Richmond upped the advantage to 5-0 in the third when Small tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly, and Danny Stewart singled, stole twice and came home on a wild throw on the second steal. The errors for which the Bobcats had bought themselves room surfaced in the fourth, with Brandon Thomas trimming the gap to 5-1 when he scored on back-to-back miscues, but Richmond quickly put the game away. Emmons tripled to right and scored on Small’s double down the left-field line in the bottom half of the fourth, and the Bobcats pushed across five runs in the fifth, the key blow being a two-run double by Rines.

The hits were louder than they’ve been in previous games, and Gardner said the offense has gotten a spark.

“I think it’s getting into the flow (of the season), getting some warmer weather,” he said. “I think they’re waiting for their pitch, and when they’re getting it now, they’re driving it.”

It was more than enough support for Rines, who threw four hitless innings while fanning five, and Justin Vachon, who struck out a pair in the fifth.

“We knew we’d be deep pitching-wise,” Gardner said. “Matty gave us a great performance, pounding the zone.”

Valley has already reached the amount of losses it suffered all of last year en route to the D South final, but coach Scott Laweryson said that struggles were to be expected after losing four starters from that team and putting four players in new positions.

“The start of our season hasn’t been what we wanted it to be, but we’re seeing more positive signs every game of being better and better,” he said. “The first two games, we hardly even got the ball in play. This game, at least we’re putting the ball in play, we’re getting some contact with it. It felt pretty good with the guys as far as their bats getting a lot better.

“We need to work. That’s all we need to do, we need to work.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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