CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Richard Bland College opened its 2017 season on Friday with a pair of setbacks at the JUCO Kickoff Classic in Clearwater, Florida. The NJCAA Division II Statesmen dropped their first game against NJCAA Division I Georgia Highlands College, 6-4, before falling in their second game versus NJCAA Division I nationally-ranked No. 6 Northwest Florida State College, 6-0. Richard Bland will play three games on Saturday, January 28, including against the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota at 9 a.m., nationally-ranked (receiving votes) Florida State College at Jacksonville at 11 a.m., before concluding its participation in the prestigious season-opening tournament with Seminole State (Fla.) College at 3:20 p.m.
In the opener against Georgia Highlands, Richard Bland scored two runs in the first inning and two more runs in the fifth, taking a 4-0 advantage into the sixth inning. Unfortunately, the Chargers plated six runs in the bottom of the sixth for the final two-run margin.
In the first, freshmen Taylor Daniel/Alberta (0-2) and Kennedy Presson/Wakefield (0-3) each drew one-out walks and advanced to third and second base, respectively, on a ground ball out from sophomore Tabby Dabney/Mechanicsville (1-3). Freshman Kay'Lee Justice/Suffolk (0-2) followed with a two-out walk to load the bases, before Daniel and Presson each scored unearned runs when sophomore Katelyn King/Chesterfield (0-3) reached via an error by the shortstop.
In the fifth, sophomore Tiffany Hedge/Fredericksburg (1-3) led off with a single and advanced to second when classmate August Ringer/Yale (0-2) reached on an error by the third baseman. Hedge crossed the plate unearned when Daniel reached on another error, by the pitcher, while Ringer was out at the plate on the play. Daniel scored the fourth unearned run on yet another, this time by the second baseman, on a ball hit by Presson.
Georgia Highlands, however, rallied late with its six runs on five hits in the sixth, aided by an error, as well.
Sophomore Shannon Buffington/Virginia Beach (0-1) started in the circle and took the pitching setback with the first 5.1 innings, allowing 11 hits and six runs, five earned, with one strikeout and two walks. Freshman Brooklynn Bilyard/Culpeper tossed the final two-thirds of an inning, yielding one hit with one strikeout and no walks.
In game two against nationally-ranked No. 6 Northwest Florida State, the Raiders scored two runs in the first inning, one each in both the second and third innings, and two more runs in the fourth inning for the final six-run margin.
Bilyard (2-3), King (1-3) and Buffington (1-1) combined for Richard Bland's four hits, including a double by King with two outs in the fourth inning.
Dabney (0-1) started in the circle and took the pitching setback with the complete 6.0 innings, allowing 10 hits and six runs, two earned, with one strikeout and two walks.