RICHMOND — Justin Vachon couldn’t ever remember having struck out seven consecutive batters before Tuesday. Then again, there’s been a lot of things this spring nobody’s experienced before.

Backed by Richmond’s highest-scoring output of the young season, the junior Vachon pitched a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts and the Bobcats cruised to a 15-1 win over Temple in an East/West Conference game played in a steady rain throughout. For the Bobcats (2-2), it was their first game in a week — in this stop-start spring that has seen far more stops than starts — to kick off a stretch of four games in five days. And for a young Temple squad having lost five of its first six to begin the season, the team’s inexperience isn’t being helped by the lack of a home field and very little practice time outside.

Richmond runner Nick Adams arrives at first as Temple infielder Evan LaFountain gets to the bag during a Class D South game Tuesday in Richmond. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Needless to say, nearly every baseball program in central Maine shares the same dilemma. The Bobcats are no different than anybody else: They just want to find a rhythm with their games and practice schedules.

“We want to get in a rhythm of the season and try to get flowing with it,” said senior first baseman Dan Stewart, who went 2 for 3 with a double, a triple and two runs batted in. “We can count the number of times we’ve been outside on two hands. It’s crazy.”

Early on, Vachon looked unperturbed by the poor weather. He retired the first nine hitters he faced, and by the time he returned to the mound for the fourth inning, he’d been staked out to a 15-0 lead.

His biggest hurdle, aside from the weather (“I think the only time the ball was dry was at the beginning of the game when the ump handed it to me,” he said), was a 35-minute break between innings. That came courtesy of the bottom of the third, when the Bobcats blew things open with a 12-run frame.

The first 12 batters of the inning reached base and all of them scored as part of a half-inning that saw Richmond come just two spots shy of batting around twice. Stewart had two RBIs in the inning, and catcher Ben Gardner drove in three thanks to a two-run double to right-center in his first trip and a sacrifice fly in his second.

“The first time through (the lineup), we talked about them being over-anxious,” Richmond coach Ryan Gardner said. “The second time through they were not, and they got some good connection. They took that extra base when outfielder’s didn’t throw to the correct cutoff or things like that. It was good baseball stuff.”

“When you relax, that’s when you see the ball,” Stewart added. “When you see it, that’s when you can square it up and drive it.”

The Bobcats got on the board with three in the first inning, though only one of those runs was earned. Temple starter Noah Brooks deserved a better fate than surrendering 15 runs in two-plus innings of work. The Bereans committed five errors, and Brooks was only charged with six earned runs.

“We’re a very young, learning team,” Temple coach Craig Riportella said. “We’ve got a lot of players that have a lot of low baseball I.Q. and don’t know always know where to throw the ball. Sometimes, that gets us.”

When Vachon came out for the fourth, he walked the first two batters to break up his perfect game bid — and an impressive run of seven straight strikeouts from the first through third innings. By issuing Nathan Riportella a leadoff walk, it allowed the Berean catcher to steal second, head to third on an Oscar Camarena flyout and score on a wild pitch to avoid the shutout.

Richmond baserunner Dan Stewart slides into home plate under the tag from Temple’s Noah Brooks during a Class D South game Tuesday in Richmond. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Ilija Ivkovic collected Temple’s only hit, in the fifth inning, before Vachon punched out back to back batters to end it.

“It was rough going back out there. I was cold and my arm was just…,” Vachon said of the long break. “It was wet. It was hard, but I think I pulled through. I feel like it was a little bit of luck. I would mix in some off-speed stuff, and I think that was working.”

“The goal was just to pound the zone today,” Ryan Gardner said. “Obviously, not an ideal situation (with the conditions). He did a great job throwing strikes. I was pleased, I mean, that’s some tough conditions.”

The hope for Richmond now is that Tuesday builds some momentum going forward.

“I like the direction we’re going,” Stewart said. “I think it’s going well.”


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