BUCKFIELD — Beating Richmond when Zach Small is on the mound is difficult enough without giving his offense more help than it could possibly expect.

Buckfield made a difficult task impossible by surrendering nine unearned runs in the first three innings, while Small tossed a one-hitter to mercy-rule the Bucks 11-1 in five innings in an East/West Conference baseball game Monday.

Small allowed just one infield hit, Cole Merrill’s grounder between shortstop and third base that plated Dylan Harvey for the Bucks’ only run. Small struck out five, walked one and hit two batters.

One-out errors in the first and third innings and a miscue to start the second sparked the Bobcats (3-0) to their first nine runs. Small had an RBI single and Trystin Shea an RBI groundout off Buckfield (2-3) starter Ethan Jackson in the three-run first.

“When we put the ball in play, we’ve got some speedy kids. It makes pitchers just go crazy,” Richmond coach Ryan Gardner said. “It was about putting the ball in play because we knew Zach was going to give us a good game.”

“Hats off to Small. He had a heck of a game, kept us off-balance all night,” Buckfield coach Ben Keene said. “But against a team like that you can’t make those mistakes.”

After committing two key errors in the first, Buckfield’s only error of the second kicked off a five-run rally. A Matt Rines double, two-run single by Danny Stewart and RBI singles by Shea and Justin Vachon made it 8-0.

Tyler Gammon relieved Jackson to start the third and pitched well but couldn’t negate the sloppy defense. Another error, a walk and a wild pitch scored Rines for a 9-0 lead.

“Ethan just wasn’t feeling it today,” Keene said. “He looked a little tired, but that’s understandable. He’s pitched in every game but one so far. I thought Tyler did great coming in, and it was probably his third or fourth time throwing off the mound this year.”

Small, meanwhile, mixed his fastball and curve effectively to cruise through the first three innings on only 29 pitches, allowing just one base runner on a hit batter.

“Zach has a wicked fastball. His curve ball’s getting everybody,” said Shea, a senior catcher. “We talked about it before the game. We said we wanted to use the fastball more. Last time (in a 3-2 win over Rangeley), the curve wasn’t as effective. Today it was very effective.”

“I’m proud of Zach. When we came over here last year we had to pull him because he struggled,” Gardner said. “So he pounded the zone today. He had them off-balance with the curve ball. He could see them flinching so he kept coming with it.”

Vachon and Ben Gardner drove in the last two Bobcat runs.

Buckfield did flash a little leather, as center fielder Shane St. Pierre made a nice running catch to rob Rines of extra bases in the fifth.

The Bucks finished the game with five errors, while the Bobcats played flawless defense behind Small, who allowed just two balls out of the infield.

“We’ve been focusing on improving out batting average and our infield defense,” Shea said. “We’re getting there.”

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