RICHMOND — History is made at every state final, every year in every sport. But 2016 probably hasn’t seen history the scope of what the winner of Saturday’s Class D state softball championship will accomplish.

Before the first pitch is even thrown at Brewer High School’s Coffin Field at noon, Richmond (17-0) has already re-written the history books with a 69-game winning streak and three consecutive state titles. On Saturday, the Bobcats will seek to join Madison (1994-97) as the only school in any class to win four in a row.

Stearns (17-2) is still looking for its first state title — not just in softball but in any girls sport, according to softball coach Nick Cullen. His team became the first Stearns girls team to win back-to-back regional crowns since the basketball team did it 36 years ago.

Cullen believes his team’s best chance to unseat the champions is to out-slug them. Given his lineup, it’s easy to understand why.

The Minutemen are strong 1-9 in an order that is averaging 14.3 runs per game.

“They’re hitting the ball well this year, from what I’ve read in the paper and what I’ve seen,” Richmond coach Tony Martin said. “They’re putting up runs like we are.”

Stearns got Richmond’s attention in last year’s state championship at St. Joseph’s College, jumping out to 2-0 lead in the top of the first and collecting nine hits against Meranda Martin before the Bobcats rallied and pulled away, 9-4.

Senior Jess Girsa had two hits and scored two runs in the first two innings of last year’s game and sets the tone from the leadoff spot for an offense that cranks out 15 hits per game. Lauren Jamo, the only other senior, had a hit and run scored in the No. 2 spot and will be there again Saturday. No. 3 hitter Cassidy McLeod, a junior, hit 10 home runs this season, including a grand slam as part of a six-RBI night in a 12-1 victory over Madawaska in the North D final Wednesday. Cleanup hitter Audrey Dunstan, a junior shortstop, is probably their best player. No. 8 hitter, sophomore Peighton Ingersoll, is hitting over .400 this year with two home runs.

“We’re really deep (in the batting order),” Cullen said. “I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a lineup in Class D South or North that puts the bat on the ball as consistently as we do.”

“I think if we get into a low-scoring game, they have the advantage because they’ve been there,” added Cullen, whose only losses came against Class C North finalist Mattanawcook.

The Bobcats have plenty of big-game experience, and they did win a low-scoring nailbiter over Class C Sacopee Valley this season. But their offense has scored four more runs in two fewer games than Stearns (16 per game).

Martin is a speedy on-base machine in the leadoff spot. Fellow junior Cassidy Harriman is the classic No. 2 hitter, capable of moving Martin along with a bunt or getting on base herself. Senior No. 3 hitter Kelsea Anair matched McLeod’s feat by driving in six runs in the regional final, and sophomore Sydney Tilton is the prototypical slugging cleanup hitter. “She’s the real deal,” Cullen said of Tilton. “I don’t know if you’re going to find a better hitter in any class than her. Hopefully, we can make it so there isn’t anybody on base when she’s coming up.”

The other half of Richmond’s order can be lethal, too. Kalah Patterson, Caitlin Kendrick, Autumn Acord, Emily Douin and Camryn Hurley combined for eight hits and scored five runs against Buckfield.

Martin will be pitching in her third state championship game Saturday. Cullen said she will be one of the hardest throwers the Minutemen have faced this year. But he added the biggest difference in his team this year is confidence, and having a lineup full of hitters who have seen her and had some success against her last year will be a big help.

“We hit the ball last year,” he said. “We got two runs in the first and had another run thrown out at the plate on what I thought was a tough call. We just couldn’t get that big hit that we needed after that to get some momentum back on our side.”

Girsa, a righty who has started every game in the circle for the last three years, allowed seven hits and no walks while fanning seven in the regional final. She threw 98 pitches, 76 for strikes, according to Cullen, in her most consistent outing of the year.

“She controls the zone well,” Cullen said. “She’s not overpowering, but she really pinpoints well now. She rarely walks people, which is a huge thing in softball.”

Cullen believes if any team can sideswipe Richmond’s dominance while making school history, his can. Coach Martin would just as soon his team put off considering the historical implications of Saturday’s game and stick with what has proven to be the ultimate winning formula.

“We’re one of eight softball teams in the state still playing. That’s what our goal was at the beginning of the year and that’s where we are,” Martin said. “It should be a good day if we just keep the girls focused and having fun. In the big scheme of things, that’s what softball is. Let’s go out and play our game and have fun.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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