The Richmond softball team has history on its side when it comes to Class D state championship games. The Bobcats are playing in their fifth straight today, having won state titles last year and in 2013. Overall they’ve won five state championships under coach Rick Coughlin.

But that has little to do with this year’s team, which starts five freshmen, including a freshman battery. Like Richmond, Eastern Maine champion Limestone is undefeated but the Eagles have a veteran on the mound in senior Melissa Cantafio and another senior behind the plate in Kelsee Albert. Last season they were eliminated by Penobscot Valley, which went on to lose to Richmond in the state final.

“They’re a lot more motivated and focused than they were last year,” coach Andrew Kirby said. “Confidence is a lot higher. This year, they knew what to expect.”

The Eagles, who have never won a state softball title, defeated Deer Isle-Stonington 9-2 in the Eastern Maine final. Cantafio had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning and finished with 11 strikeouts.

“We haven’t seen anybody that fast,” Richmond coach Rick Coughlin said. “We’ll have to adjust our swing and just hit the ball.”

Hitting may be the Eagles’ strong suit. They averaged .460 as a team, led by Chelsey Pelkey at .531. Cantafio batted .525, Elizabeth Bencivenga .493 and Madeline Williams .492. During the season, the Eagles received 18 home runs (over the fence) from seven different players.

“They love to swing the bat,” Kirby said.

The Eagles also like to run and stole 10 bases in the Eastern Maine final. Richmond also likes to run as well, especially with catcher Camryn Hurley and pitcher Meranda Martin at the top of the order. The freshmen have combined to score 71 runs this season and both can bunt, often a feature in Coughlin’s offense. Kelsea Anair, Kelsi Obi and Kalah Patterson have also been key hitters for the Bobcats this season.

Martin has been a strikeout pitcher for the Bobcats, finishing with 116 in 101 innings this season, but she has yet to see a lineup like the Eagles have. She may have to rely more on her defense which has improved steadily throughout the season.

“Our infield is one of the best around,” Coughlin said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ

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