Richmond has been so good for so long it’s hard to imagine the Bobcats taking a step back this season. And with Sydney Underhill-Tilton in the circle and swinging the bat, the Bobcats may not fall far.

The Bobcats saw their string of 88 straight victories and four Class D state championships come to an end last season, when they lost to Penobscot Valley in the state title game.

They may never have a run like that again, according to coach Tony Martin.

“A lot of the younger kids played coming up through (the ranks),” he said. “You don’t see a lot of that now.”

The Bobcats lost seven players, including six starters, and as Martin points out “being a small school that makes it worse.”

Still, Underhill-Tilton returns. Last year she was behind the plate to take advantage of her strong arm. When she pitched, she was effective, striking out 36 batters in 27 innings. But it was as a hitter that she made her mark. She finished with seven home runs and drove in 34 while batting .630. She also drew 22 walks, many of those intentional.

“I’m not sure where we’re going to put her in the lineup,” said Martin, who said she might even lead off.

Junior Caitlin Kendrick and sophomore Bri Lancaster return at shortstop and second base, respectively, and will be counted upon to protect Tilton in the lineup. Both also pitch.

Martin hopes the combination of freshmen Paige Lebel and Bryannah Shea can work behind the plate.

“We want to keep Tilton on the mound,” he said.

Buckfield figures to be Richmond’s greatest competition, although Martin says Vinalhaven may also be strong.

“The kids are going to get better,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll go undefeated.”

In Waterville, Temple Academy has quietly been building toward becoming a strong Class D program. After two straight postseason appearances, the Bereans eye a third this spring with what might be their best overall team.

Kiara Carr graduated as the only senior from last year’s 6-8 team that lost a playoff game at Vinalhaven. Her replacement, however, is already in the dugout.

Sophomore Jaimee Feugill missed all of last season with a knee injury, but she’ll take over behind the plate for Carr. As an eighth-grader, Feugill batted over .650 and will help boost the Temple lineup.

She’ll be receiving two-year starting pitcher Deleyni Carr — still only a sophomore — to give the Bereans a very good battery from which to build.

“Our pitcher and catcher is a dynamic duo,” Temple coach Kim Feugill said. “Deleyni and Jaimee play on the same travel team year-round, so they have that opportunity to work together a lot. That’s going to be the backbone of the team, the two of them.”

Like Temple, Rangeley made the tournament a year ago but appears to be a much better team on paper this season.

The Lakers were not hit hard by graduation and have an athletic bunch led by senior Natasha Haley and junior Brooke Egan. Pitcher Olivia Pye, a sophomore, has a year of starting under her belt, too.

Given the success of this particular group of girls in other sports — including soccer and basketball — one can expect Rangeley to be in the conversation come June.

Forest Hills and Valley each missed the tournament a year ago and are looking to replace key cogs in their respective lineups.

The Tigers and Cavaliers will each be young, having graduated several key starters from their respective lineups. For Forest Hills, sophomore Mary Lee Brown will tackle the pitching duties after working only a few innings of spot duty last season as a freshman.

“Caitlin Logston and Haley Cuddy, both former players, have been working with (Brown),” Forest Hills coach Jean Turner said. “We had a couple of games during the season last year where she pitched a few innings. With a little more confidence, I think she’ll do all right. She’s got a couple of years to build, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Valley, which graduated starting pitcher Michaela Marden and starting catcher Samantha West, will try and fill those holes with an eye on being a better team at the end of May than it is in mid-April.

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