BREWER — Stearns pitcher Jessica Girsa’s second pitch of Saturday’s Class D state softball championship at Coffin Field went straight for the helmet of Richmond leadoff hitter Meranda Martin. Martin, a junior pitcher, barely flinched in the batters box. Fortunately, the ball hit where her helmet had the most cushion, the top of the forehead. She stayed on her feet and didn’t stop to shake off any cobwebs, just disposed of her bat and ran to first base.

“I had my helmet to protect me,” Martin said after Richmond won its fourth consecutive state title and she picked up her third state championship ‘W’ with a 15-6 win over Stearns. “I wasn’t afraid.”

As if to drive that point home, when the Bobcats’ next batter, Cassidy Harriman, put down a sacrifice bunt, the speedy Martin never hesitated rounding second and took third base with ease. After a walk to Kelsea Anair, she crossed the plate with the game’s first run on Sydney Tilton’s single.

Martin took the extra base on a Harriman bunt again in the seventh inning (reaching base on a much less frightening dropped third strike) with the Bobcats leading by five runs. In between those mad dashes, she tripled, hit a two-run single, stole a base, scored four runs, just missed a home run by a few feet, and stood tall in the circle against a powerhouse Stearns lineup.

And the Minutemen definitely tested Martin. They rapped 11 hits, led by four fom junior second baseman Cassidy McLeod.

But Martin kept throwing strikes and didn’t issue walks (just one) that would have poured gasoline on Stearns’ rallies.

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“We worked on corners, corners, corners, hitting the corners, throwing low, keeping my glove low,” sophomore catcher Sydney Tilton said. “We worked on throwing junk, never throwing the same pitches twice, and communicating, always.”

“My approach was just like every other game — mix the pitches up, throw my game,” Martin said. “I wanted to throw hard because this is the last game, so give it my all. I knew they were going to hit the ball, but you know, my mentality was I’m going to pitch the ball, they’re going to hit it (and) my defense is going to back me up. I have trust in my team.”

Martin trusts no one more than Tilton, who also gives her batterymate’s right arm a break during the regular season as the Bobcats’ second pitcher in doubleheaders.

“Having Sydney behind the plate to stop everything is huge,” said Tony Martin, Richmond’s coach and Meranda’s father. “When they get on, they don’t get an extra base, because they don’t steal off her. That girl back there, she’s a wall.”

The players behind Martin have earned her trust, as well. They weren’t flawless on Saturday (three errors leading to two unearned runs), but they did make several key plays, particularly a pair of snags of screaming line drives at third base by Anair.

“She has a lot of faith in us,” said junior second baseman Camryn Hurley. “We’ve been working together for so long. It’s made a huge difference growing up with each other.”

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This season was unlike any other Martin and her teammates have had, however. Long-time coach Rick Coughlin retired shortly before pitchers and catchers reported in March and her father, an assistant coach since 2010, took over.

Martin, a team captain along with seniors Autumn Acord, Kalah Patterson and Anair, wondered how it would affect their father-daughter relationship on and off the field, but didn’t let it dampen her competitive fire.

“I was a little bit up-and-down about it, because being the coach’s daughter I thought it’d be ‘Meranda go do this. Meranda go do that,'” she said. “But you know, it really settled in during the season and we had a really great time.”

“She keeps us all upbeat,” said Patterson, who had three hits and drove in three runs. “She talks to us throughout the whole game. She gets us going in the dugout. She makes sure we’re always up and ready for whatever comes up next.”

Up next for Martin, Tilton, Hurley and three other returning starters — first baseman Cassidy Harriman, left fielder Caitlin Kendrick and right fielder Emily Douin — will be to try to extend their record 70-game hitting streak and set another new record in Maine high school baseball: a fifth consecutive state softball title.

The remaining Bobcats are eager for the challenge.

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“I think it’s a really cool thing to keep going and motivate kids younger than us. Even if they aren’t in Richmond,” Hurley said. “You set records because you want other people to strive to be better, and I think it will make people strive to be better.’

Whatever strides the Bobcats make in the next 12 months, Meranda Martin will be the one leading the way.

“She sets the tone and we have to back her up,” Tilton said. “She’s amazing. That’s all I can say.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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