RICHMOND — Their offenses were cold and their defenses were shaky, no surprise in an early season baseball game.

Richmond’s Zach Small and Rangeley’s Bo Beaulieu, however, seemed in mid-season form while dueling from the first pitch to the last.

The showdown went to Small, as Richmond broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the fifth and held on from there for a 2-1 victory in the season opener for both teams.

“I like to get on the mound and attack the batters early and often, and get in positions where I can get them with my curveball or blow it by them,” said Small, who allowed two hits and no earned runs while striking out 11. “In most cases it was getting them off balance with the curveball. … I try to put myself on the mound in situations where I can get them out with that pitch.”

Beaulieu matched him frame for frame, striking out eight and allowing three hits in six innings, but still getting saddled with the loss when defensive miscues resulted in two unearned runs in the fifth.

“I was just trying to keep pounding the strike zone over and over again,” he said. “I couldn’t get my curveball to fall today, so I kept pounding the strike zone with the fastball.”

TURNING POINT: The teams matched zeros through four and a half innings, but Richmond took advantage when Rangeley’s defense slipped in the bottom of the fifth.

Damian Little reached on a dropped third strike, and after a balk, Ben Gardner grounded a ball through the third baseman’s legs for an error to puts runners at the corners. Beaulieu bounced back with a strikeout, but after Matt Rines walked to load the bases, Justin Vachon and Small reached on grounders to third and shortstop, respectively, that went as infield singles and scored Little and Gardner.

“It is tough to have it happen, because it hurts you. You know you have to keep throwing more and more, and you run your pitch count up more,” Beaulieu said. “But at the same time, we haven’t been outside all season, so I know it’s going to happen from time to time right now.”

Rines was thrown out trying to score on the play and Beaulieu induced a flyout to center to end the threat, but the damage was done.

“I think it showed great resilience by our players to pull through and keep battling through the whole seven innings,” Small said, “because we had to today.”

Rangeley coach Jeff LaRochelle acknowledged that the mistakes made the difference but didn’t blame his fielders, instead pointing out that Tuesday was Rangeley’s first time, in games or in practice, on a field this season.

“I have done ground balls in a gym. That’s it,” he said. “Those ground balls right to infielders should be outs. We’re not attacking the ball. But that’s part of the problem of being in a gym. … I’m surprised that we really didn’t have more errors.”

PITCHERS’ DUEL: Aside from the fifth, neither pitcher flinched.

Small was terrific, fanning a batter in all but one inning and throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of 25 batters. He didn’t walk anyone and reached two balls on a batter only once, and was touched for a run only when Rangeley’s Leo Perez reached on a bunt single and scored on a throwing error in the seventh.

“Zach did a heck of a job pounding the zone,” Richmond coach Ryan Gardner said. “We talked about getting ahead of people, and he froze a bunch of people with his curveball. … That’s a senior throwing. He pretty much got himself in a groove, and catcher Trystin (Shea) called a good game.”

Beaulieu was up for the challenge of going against the Bobcats’ ace, striking out six in the first three innings and keeping the hard-hitting Richmond lineup at bay.

“I knew it was going to be a good pitching battle from Zach, because all four years of my high school career, we’ve always gone against him,” Beaulieu said. “Knowing you’re going against somebody who’s putting zeros up, you always want to go out and put ‘ up for yourself so you at least keep your team in the game.”

Small said he was also fueled by the pressure that began to set in.

“I like any sort of battle. I’m a very competitive person,” he said. “A battle inside of a game, it’s a pretty cool thing to do. He pitched a great game too. … (Take away) a couple of errors on both sides, it was probably a 0-0 game. He pitched well.”

SHAKING THE RUST: Last year, Richmond beat Rangeley 12-4 on its home field. There were no big hits or big innings this time — not that that bothered coach Gardner.

“This was a baseball game. You want to play a lot of 2-1, 3-2 games,” he said. “Those are where your adrenaline’s flowing. If you don’t make a play, somebody’s going to (take advantage).”

It was Richmond’s third day outside, and Gardner was confident the offense that carried the Bobcats to last year’s D South final would return in time.

“That’ll come. That’s from seeing more pitches,” he said. “I think the bats come with the warm weather.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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