RICHMOND — Eight straight years, eight seasons of Class D South dominance for the Richmond softball team. For many of those years, Buckfield was often the final stepping stone to the state title game for the Bobcats.

But not this year.

No. 3 Buckfield finally put an end to the Richmond reign, holding off second-seeded Richmond 6-4 on Friday in the regional semifinals. The Bucks raced out to a 6-0 lead through six and a half innings and then held on in the bottom of the seventh to punch their ticket to Wednesday’s regional final at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish.

“It took us a long time, but I knew that this was the team that could do it,” said Buckfield coach Sandy Albert. “Give Richmond credit, they are a great team with a great pitcher (Sydney Underhill-Tilton). But it went our way today.”

For Richmond (15-2), it was four errors, nine runners left on base through six scoreless innings and running out of time which eventually ended the regional title run that began in 2010.

Richmond’s Sydney Underhill-Tilton sprints for first base but couldn’t beat the throw to Buckfield first baseman Cara Merrill and was called out during a Class D South semifinal Friday at Richmond High School. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

“They came to play, we made some costly errors, but these kids kept their heads high and worked to the end,” said Richmond coach Tony Martin. “We needed a little hit. We didn’t start hitting until late in the game. Against a team like this, you can’t make errors and you have to hit early.”

Despite trailing 6-0 heading to the seventh, the Bobcats made the large Buckfield contingent nervous along the packed first-base line. Underhill-Tilton reached on an infield single, followed by walks to Ashley Brown and Bryannah Shea to load the bases with nobody out.

Albert relieved starting pitcher Julia Dow, bringing in reliever Cara Merrill. On an 0-2 pitch, cleanup hitter Caitlin Kendrick cleared the bases with a double to left-center field to cut the Buckfield lead in half.

“When they loaded the bases, there was pressure. I think I was mentally drained, so to have a great backup pitcher in Cara is so important,” said Dow, who threw six-plus innings on six hits, six walks and one strikeout.

“We weren’t going to accept defeat until the third out of the seventh inning,” said Kendrick, who later scored on a single by Paige Lebel to close the gap to 6-4.

Buckfield pitcher Julia Dow tosses a pitch during a Class D South semifinal game Friday at Richmond High School. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

A fielder’s choice followed for the second out, and Merrill struck out the final Richmond hitter to end it.

“We knew that we couldn’t exhale. They are a good team that doesn’t give up,” Albert said.

“We were so nervous in the seventh inning. We had to keep pushing, and Richmond pushed to the end,” said Buckfield catcher Hannah Shields.

Buckfield broke a scoreless tie in the fifth. Dow singled and stole second, one of seven stolen bases for the Bucks. With two outs, an error on a ground ball by Molly Bourget allowed Dow to score. Three pitches later and with Bourget on second, Merrill singled to right-center field for a 2-0 Buckfield lead.

Richmond’s Sydney Underhill-Tilton pitches during a Class D South semifinal game Friday at Richmond High School. Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Richmond loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth as senior Haley Chapman and pinch hitter Kennedy Chandler each singled. Shields, who was 3 for 4, tripled to open the sixth and scored on an infield single by Trimm, and the Bucks tacked on three important runs in the seventh, with an RBI each going to Cassidy Hart, Shields and Maggie Bragg.

And then Richmond put a final scare into Buckfield in the seventh.

“That is just what we do. We want to get better and we won’t stop until the game is over,” Kendrick said. “It is rough. We are more than capable of beating that team, but it happens.”

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