RICHMOND — Last year, it was easy. The Richmond baseball team breezed into the Class D South final with a mercy-rule, no-sweat, blowout win over Greenville.

On Friday, it was still Greenville in the semifinals, but this was a different team. A different pitcher. And a far different game.

Ultimately, however, it was the same result. Led by a do-it-all game from senior Zach Small, the second-seeded Bobcats edged the No. 3 Lakers 3-2, booking a return trip to the D South final on Wednesday at St. Joseph’s College.

Richmond pitcher Zach Small throws during a Class D South semifinal game against Greenville on Friday.

“We were in the other end of a game like that with St. Dom’s,” said Richmond coach Ryan Gardner, whose team beat Greenville in the semifinals last year 11-1. “That’s where we got the feel we don’t like. It doesn’t feel good to lose. They gutted it out.”

One year after all the drama was seemingly gone with the first pitch, it stuck around this time until the very last. Greenville got the tying run to third base in both the sixth and seventh innings, only for Small to escape both jams on his way to a complete-game effort. He also scored two of Richmond’s runs, with Justin Vachon scoring the other.

“That’s the beauty of it, when number ones are throwing against each other. You know it’s going to be a battle,” said Small, who outdueled Greenville ace Evan Bjork. “I love pitching in those types of environments.”


Bjork pitched 5 1/3 innings for Greenville, allowing only two hits and one earned run. Noah Pratt and Connor DiAngelo scored the Laker runs.

“We came in and our big focus was to keep it close. If we keep it close, we can do anything,” coach Kevin Stafford said. “We did a good job today, it just didn’t fall our way.”

PLAYER OF THE GAME: The Bobcats looked for Small to carry them. And the senior, playing his last game at his home field, delivered.

He was tough on the mound, allowing only three hits while striking out five, and he buckled down when the Lakers threatened. Greenville got to within 3-2 in the sixth after DiAngelo doubled to left and came home after a walk, double steal and Anthony Mason groundout, but Small fanned Devin Boone to leave Damian Hemond at third.

Greenville put the pressure back on in the seventh when Pratt grounded into a fielder’s choice and went to second on a throwing error, then went to third on a passed ball with two outs. Small induced a weak grounder back to the mound two pitches later, however, ending the rally and the game.

“That’s part of being a senior. I’ve seen those jams over and over and over again,” he said. “Over the years I’ve grown to just try my best to keep my cool in those situations, because as a sophomore, freshman, maybe even a junior, I’d lose my composure in those situations.”


Small also led the way at the plate, gathering Richmond’s only two hits. They were both singles to left, the second of which kick-started a rally in the fifth with Richmond leading 2-1. He stole second and third, then scored on Nate Kendrick’s grounder to third to give the Bobcats a third run, and one that proved vital.

“This team asks me to do a lot, and every day I’m going to try to do the best I can,” Small said. “Knowing these are my last games, I’m just going to give it everything I’ve got.”

Richmond shortstop Matt Rines fields a ball in the dust during Friday’s Class D South semifinal against Greenville.

HARD LUCK: Bjork did his part to keep Greenville close. The righthander struck out six and left six men on base.

“I knew that I had to come out and pitch my best game,” said Bjork, who was named the Penobscot Valley Conference’s Class D pitcher of the year and who threw a one-hitter in his last outing. “Sometimes, things just didn’t go our way. That’s how the game goes.”

“I knew he was quality,” Gardner said. “He’s the real deal.”

His defense hurt him in key moments. In the first inning, Small walked and scored on a grounder to short that should have ended the inning but was booted for an error. In the second, Vachon walked and ended up scoring on a dropped fly ball to left with two outs.


The Bobcats were given extra chances, but Gardner praised his team, especially the hitters at the bottom of the lineup, for their patience with the Greenville ace. No. 9 hitter Dakota Gilpatrick kept the second inning going with a two-out, full-count walk, No. 8 hitter Ben Gardner drew a nine-pitch walk two innings later, and Richmond forced Bjork to throw 108 pitches before he left.

“In playoff baseball, with the pitch count system, a walk is better than a single,” coach Gardner said. “I said ‘If he’s not throwing stuff, we’re going to take a lot of pitches. We’re going to make you throw me a strike before I start swinging the bat.’ … We made him throw a lot of pitches he did not want to throw.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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