RICHMOND — Freshman catcher Camryn Hurley wondered out loud Tuesday when her team would be challenged this year.
“It’s nice to win,” she said in the early stages of a blowout against Old Orchard Beach. “But it’s nice to have some competition, too.”
The Bobcats have breezed through their schedule so far, which is a bit of a surprise since they graduated nine seniors from last season’s Class D state championship team. But in Richmond, success is all about continuity. It begins with coaching. Rick Coughlin is entering his 28th season as head coach and, over the past 10 years, has appeared in five state championship games, winning three. Then there are the families. At least five girls on this year’s team had sisters who played.
“We watched tons of games,” said junior Kelsie Obi, one of two returning starters. “Our coaches would take us to these games when we were younger.”
Obi is one of two juniors on the team — there are no seniors — along with four sophomores and six freshmen.
“It’s a pretty good run of athletes,” Richmond athletic director Molly Bishop said. “They’re young but they’ve played a lot of softball.”
The freshmen, led by pitcher Meranda Martin, came highly touted. Martin’s older sister, Leandra, pitched for four years, won a state title in 2010, and still helps out with some of the younger players. Meranda began pitching in fifth grade, in the offseason has a pitching and hitting coach and plays during the summer for the Southern Maine Flames, a U-16 team that also includes Hurley.
Bishop points out that most of the teams on Richmond’s schedule don’t have any players who play in the offseason with the exception of Buckfield some years, but that doesn’t excuse Richmond’s youth. Not only can they pitch and run, the Bobcats are an exceptional hitting team.
“That’s the key to our success,” Coughlin said. “Right down the line we’re just crushing the ball. I’ve never had a team hit like this. That’s been a key.”
Coughlin favors a small ball style, but it’s hard to employ when your team is winning by 10 or 15 runs. Martin and Hurley are the table setters and designated bunters, but Tuesday they swung away. Martin, who Coughlin said may be the fastest player he ever coached, homered, tripled and singled twice while Hurley belted a double.
Coughlin said he’ll continue to use Martin and Hurley to set up the rest of his lineup because of the confidence he has in their ability to hit. He’s aware they haven’t been tested yet and makes sure he’s stays on top of his team in practice.
“It’s for the best,” Obi said. “He pushes us just so he can see the outcome. He knows what we can do.”
The defense has yet to be tested although Coughlin has full faith in his infield, which returns Obi at first, Kelsea Anair at second and Kalah Patterson at short.
“The outfield hasn’t really been tested,” he said. “I just hope we can handle it when it comes.”
In addition to the confidence the young group has, there’s also a lot of camaraderie on the team.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a better team (than last year) but it’s one of the best teams I’ve played with,” Obi said. “We all get along and we all feel like sisters.”