Sydney Tilton enjoys every aspect of playing softball, from those moments when she’s blocking balls from her catching position to blowing fastballs past hitters when she’s on the mound. But put a bat in the Richmond junior’s hands and the game takes on a new relevance.

“I love hitting,” Tilton said. “I love my Louisville. I know when I hit it well from the sound. It doesn’t hurt, it feels good.”

Tilton’s been feeling good since she put on a Richmond uniform three years ago, so good in fact that teams often walk her than allow her to hit. Tilton drew 22 base on balls this past season, many of those without seeing a strike. It boosted her on-base percentage to .750 but that’s not her first choice.

“I want to hit,” she said. “I want to earn it.”

Teams often had no choice but to pitch to Tilton — the Bobcats won every game in her career until losing in this year’s state title game — and she made them pay. This season she belted seven homers, drove in 34 runs and batted .630. For her efforts she’s been selected Kennebec Journal Softball Player of the Year.

By the time Tilton arrived in high school, the Bobcats already had back-to-back Class D state championships to their credit and a substantial win streak. That ended at 88 games, fifth best all-time in the nation, when Penobscot Valley downed the Bobcats while they’re were gunning for the their fifth straight title.

“It’s hard to come up with something that embodies what a great accomplishment that was,” Tilton said. “I don’t think it will ever die.”

Tilton began playing softball at a young age and, when she didn’t have a team to play for at age 12, she played baseball for a year and made the town’s Little League all-start team. Richmond coach Tony Martin noticed Tilton’s increase in power last year when she hit three homers and he often cautions opposing third basemen not to play in close because of her power.

“She’s a strong kid,” Martin said. “She works her tail off top to stay that way.”

Martin moved Tilton from cleanup to the third spot in the batting order so she’d see more pitches.

“They were walking her a lot,” he said. “It’s too bad when they take the ball out of the kid’s hands like that.”

Then again, there’s good reason. In a late-season showdown at Buckfield, Tilton walked her first two at-bats. With two out and no one on base, the Bucks decided to pitch to her and she responded with an opposite-field home run over the right-field fence. She was subsequently walked twice more.

Recently graduated Meranda Martin, the coach’s daughter, has been the team’s primary pitcher for four years. Tilton has pitched as well. This year she struck out 36 batters in 27 innings while walking eight and allowing six hits.

Tilton throws a little harder than Martin does, but her coach prefers to keep her behind the plate because of her strong arm and catching skills.

“She’s a wall back there,” he said. “Sydney just blocks everything.”

Tilton, who throws year round, will be the team’s primary pitcher next season.

“My pitching coach is always there for me,” she said. “Working harder isn’t anything I worry about.”

It’s tough to find any high schooler with a busier summer than Tllton’s. In addition to playing softball for the Southern Maine Flames, she’s playing summer basketball and soccer. She led the Bobcats in scoring and rebounding the past two seasons and plays goalie for the soccer team. She also works as a lifeguard at Winthrop Beach and one or two days a week in the same job at the pool at Togus.

“I love the water,” Tilton said. “I want something to do with the water the rest of my life.”

Tilton, whose dad is a Navy veteran, wants to attend the Coast Guard Academy and play softball there. She’s been accepted to Academy Introductory Mission and will check the school out for a week this summer.

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