RICHMOND — For the vast majority of Richmond’s softball players, returning to St. Joseph’s College’s Richard W. Bailey Field for the Western Class D championship on Tuesday brought back a flood of memories of last year’s regional championship win over Greenville and other success they’ve had on that field.

Most of the reminiscing had to do with getting a hit or making a catch in last year’s 7-2 win over Greenville. For freshman catcher/pitcher Sydney Tilton, though, the memories were of being a spectator watching the Bobcats win five Western D titles and a state championship over the last five years.

“I didn’t really remember until we got there, then it all came back to me,” she said. “I remember where I was and watching them play there. It was kind of like a rush. It just kind of all sunk in, like, I’m really here right now. It’s awesome.”

The Bobcats, playing in their sixth straight state title game, will play Eastern Maine champ Stearns at 4 p.m.

Although she was one of just two freshmen on a roster that didn’t graduate a single player from the 2014 state title team, Tilton said she never felt like an outsider in the Richmond dugout.

“The transition into high school from middle school has been big, but I’m lucky I was able to be riding to such a great group and kind of welcomed in by all of these people,” she said. “It’s been great. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

The transition was made easier by the fact that Tilton has played on AAU and various travel teams with many of her teammates in recent years, and goes back even further with some. She was also a star forward on the basketball team that reached the regional final last February.

Still, Tilton admits experiencing a little trepidation as an eighth grader who knew she would be playing an important role on a team that already has a long track record of softball success.

“You want to live up to everybody’s expectations and help out the team the best way that you can,” Tilton said. “But, honestly, this season, I haven’t thought about that once. We’re all a team. We all lose together. We all win together.”

“She just fit right in,” Richmond coach Rick Coughlin said. “We didn’t lose anybody from last year and we gained her. That’s quite an addition. It’s really a luxury.”

Coughlin and the Bobcats are living like softball royalty with Tilton hitting third in the lineup. Going into the regional final, she was batting .563 with four home runs and 25 RBIs. On Tuesday, she added a couple of RBIs to that total and reached base all four times she stepped to the plate as the Bobcats won their 51st consecutive game.

Tilton’s most impressive performance may have come before the game, though.

“She is the strongest hitter I’ve had,” Coughlin said. “Really, she can crush a ball. Up to St. Joe’s the other day in batting practice she hit one onto the roof of the building out there in left field. Down here against Vinalhaven, she hit a shot at the third baseman that was hit so hard the third baseman just got out of the way of it.”

Tilton relishes bringing that kind of pop while hitting third in a lineup that is averaging 13.7 runs per game.

“I like doing my job. I like the pressure of going up there and hitting the ball. It’s a rush. And I like being with my family,” she said, referring to her fellow Bobcats.

One of the closest members of that family is sophomore batterymate Meranda Martin.

“We’ve been doing this ever since T-ball, the early minors, majors, all the way up through. We know each other so well. We can read each other,” she said. “It’s second nature. She’s a pitcher, I’m a pitcher, so we know the strike zone. She catches, too, so it’s kind of like a big, functioning machine.”

The machine doesn’t sputter when Martin and Tilton switch roles and the former goes behind the plate while the latter takes to the circle. As far as Coughlin is concerned, there is no dropoff when the freshman pitches, usually in the second game of a doubleheader.

“None whatsoever,” Coughlin said. “Meranda now gets a chance to pitch hard for one game and not have to worry about the second game. She can just relax and throw hard the first game.”

Yet another luxury for Coughlin and the Bobcats. The rich get richer.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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