When you’re less than two years removed from a nearly 90-game winning streak, expectations are rarely reduced. At Richmond, where the Bobcats are going through what amounts to a transition period, a 15-win season that ends in a regional semifinal is met with disappointment.

But Tony Martin understands the external pressure his team faces on a daily basis.

“I think from a lot of fans’ point of view, that’s it,” Martin said of the expectation of state championship or bust. When we had that winning streak, we had a lot of girls that played softball outside of the season. It was not just picking up your glove in March. I’m lucky that my pitchers pitch year-round. When the season comes, we work on a lot of fundamental stuff, get back into the game and try to work on hitting as much as we can.”

Richmond softball players work through a drill during an April 4 practice in Richmond. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

In Class D South, that hitting work may make the difference for Richmond. Sydney Underhill-Tilton has graduated — robbing the Bobcats of the home-run power she possessed every at-bat during the season.

“With the team we’ve got returning, I think we’re going to be OK,” Martin said.

Caitlin Kendrick will take over the pitching duties, while underclassmen Bry Shea and Bry Lancaster are already multi-year starters at catcher and first base, respectively.

The challenge facing Martin is building depth. There are new faces at the bottom of the roster, and some of that inexperience could show up against a strong schedule of opponents featuring regional favorite Buckfield (three times) and Class C schools Sacopee Valley and St. Dominic (twice each).

“Buckfield’s going to be tough,” said Martin, whose team lost to Buckfield in the regional semifinals last season. “We’re going to have our hands full with them.”

In between, the Bobcats will also play Valley and Temple, two teams on the rise.

Valley missed the playoffs last year with a young roster, but sophomore pitcher Cylee Pratt emerged last season as a very good arm, and Kennedy Savoy and Kendra Sweet are excellent senior players.

“With the maturing of last year’s pitching duo of Cylee Pratt and Emily Collins, coupled with the veteran defensive and offensive play of seniors Kennedy Savoy and Kendra Sweet, we anticipate making a solid run towards a playoff spot this season,” Valley coach Erin Marden said.

Temple earned a postseason berth last season, and they bring back five players who enjoyed big roles in that successful spring. Deleyni Carr, a junior, has been a fixture in the circle for the Bereans for three years now, and she’ll throw to veteran catcher Jaimee Feugill.

It has all the makings of a team that could run deep into the regional tournament this season after getting a taste of quarterfinal action in 2018.

“The pieces are there,” Temple coach Kim Feugill said. “Our goal as coaches is to find where they fit best as the season goes on.”

If there’s a question mark, it’s in the inexperience. The Bereans have 11 players in the program who have no prior softball experience.

“Learning the mental part of the game will be a challenge,” Feugill said. “What will set them apart and be their success is the determination. There is a lot of athleticism and fast ability to learn.”

Greenville is the reigning Class D state champion, but the Lakers graduated five seniors from their’ title-winning team. Vinalhaven/North Haven and Searsport are routinely playoff teams in D South, while  Forest Hills and Wiscasset will try to compete for a berth in the tournament.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Caitlin Kendrick, Richmond
Senior is a converted shortstop who will be tasked with pitching the majority of innings for the Bobcats this season.

Deleyni Carr, Temple
The junior is already a multi-year starter for the Bereans and her veteran ability will be key for the team’s playoff hopes.

Kendra Sweet, Valley
Senior shortstop is a good defender and provides some pop for the Cavaliers lineup.

Bryanne Lancaster, Richmond
Junior first baseman provides veteran presence in a new-look lineup for the Bobcats this season.

Jaimee Feugill, Temple
Solid hitting catcher who has been receiving Carr since her freshman season.

GAMES TO WATCH

April 24: Temple at Buckfield
April 25: Forest Hills at Valley
April 30: Richmond at Buckfield (DH)
May 14: Richmond at Temple
May 28: St. Dom’s at Richmond

PREDICTION
Buckfield


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