RICHMOND — It is the question that is asked just about every season — will this be the year the Richmond High School softball team takes a step backward?

On Tuesday in the Bobcats’ East-West Conference season opener, Richmond appeared to have an early answer.

Richmond, the eight-time defending Class D South regional champions, scored eight runs in the first inning and cruised to a 14-0 win over Rangeley.

The main story was Bobcat hurler Sydney Underhill-Tilton, who struck out 10 of the first 11 batters she faced and allowed just one hit in a dominating performance.

“Syd did very well pitching, just one walk, and she worked the corners,” said Richmond co-coach Tony Martin. “We had some young girls in there, and we have some base running things to work on. Syd has worked with these young players, and is just a class-act player. She loves the role that she is in.”

Richmond certainly has a rich history of solid pitchers. Co-coach Leandra Martin works tirelessly with Underhill-Tilton, along with former starter Meranda Martin, who shared the pitching duties with Underhill-Tilton last year.

“I think if anything I just try to do my job, work hard, throw hard and not over-throw. Just stay true to myself and my team. It is nice to have Leandra and Meranda around. They may be gone, but not really,” Underhill-Tilton said.

QUICK START: Underhill-Tilton struck out the side in the top of the first. On Richmond’s first cracks, the Bobcats came out firing against Rangeley (0-1) starter Sydney Royce. Caitlin Kendrick dropped a single into center field, and walks to Underhill-Tilton and Bryannah Shea loaded the bases. Bryanne Lancaster followed with a two-run single to left-center field, and Paige Lebel hustled to first for an infield single for a quick 4-0 lead.

“We knew once we got out there and settled that the jitters would come out. Our hard work really shows,” said Underhill-Tilton.

Walks to Breanna Vintinner, Haley Chapman and Leah Wescott resulted in two more runs, and Underhill-Tilton smacked a two-run single to left field for an 8-0 lead after an inning.

Richmond tacked on five more runs in the second, the lone hit coming from Underhill-Tilton (RBI single to center).

“More than anything we have surprised ourselves so far, and I feel that we are a lot more capable than people may think,” said Underhill-Tilton, who again struck out the side in the third and finished with a dozen punchouts.

Royce lasted 1 1/3 innings, permitting 11 runs on four hits and eight walks with two strikeouts. Sophomore Olivia Pye relieved and found some success, escaping further damage in the second and keeping the Bobcats off the board in the third thanks to an inning-ending double play.

“She did that for us last year, came in for relief and just threw the ball,” said Rangeley coach Chip Smith, who discussed his team’s struggles to get outside. “We still have snow on our field, and being that this was really the first time out for us in seeing live pitching, there were some positives. Just to be outside is a positive.”

LAKERS ANSWER: Natasha Haley busted up Underhill-Tilton’s perfect game bid in the fourth, dropping a two-out single into right-center field. Brooke Egan walked to leadoff the fifth, but was stranded at second as Underhill-Tilton picked up her final two strikeouts and retired the final Laker on a ground ball to second.

“They started to get the feel of it, both at the plate and in the field,” said Smith.

QUICK STATS: Underhill-Tilton reached base in all four plate appearances (two walks, two singles) and drove in three runs. Lancaster also drove in three runs. The Bobcats finished with five hits.

Pye went the final 2 1/3 frames, allowing one hit and three unearned runs. She walked four and struck out two.

UP NEXT: Richmond heads to Vinalhaven/North Haven on Saturday (1 p.m.), while Rangeley is slated to visit Valley on Friday (4 p.m.).

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