Editor’s note: This is the first installment of our new series, “Remember When,” in which we revisit some of the memorable games, events, streaks and runs in high school spring sports we’ve covered over the last few decades.

 

RICHMOND — Before every game, former Richmond softball coach Rick Coughlin said, there was one thought.

“It’s a feeling of ‘We can beat this team,’ ” Coughlin said. “Every game, we went in with that attitude. ‘We can beat them.’ ”

Eighty-eight straight times, the Bobcats were right. Starting with the first game in 2013 and ending with the last one in 2017, Richmond won every game and dominated the Class D softball scene like no other team has. The Bobcats won four straight championships and reached five Class D finals in that span, and compiled the nation’s fifth-longest high school softball winning streak.

The Richmond softball team celebrates after winning the 2015 regional title at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“Those four, five years there, it was priceless,” said Tony Martin, who was an assistant coach before taking over for Coughlin at the start of the 2016 season. “It took a little bit for that to set in. But when you sit back and think about it, it was a wicked accomplishment for those kids.”

The run produced a list of names that became well-known in the Richmond area. Players like pitching aces Meranda Martin and Jamie Plummer, and Sydney Underhill-Tilton and Kelsie Obie and Caitlin Kendrick and Kelsea Anair, who played her entire high school career without losing a game.

“Looking back at it now, it’s crazy to think that a team could do that,” Meranda Martin said.

The run began with a note of vengeance. Richmond lost the 2012 final to Penobscot Valley, but led by senior pitcher Plummer went on a mission to get back to the championship game and cross off that final step.

The Bobcats did just that, rolling to the state championship game and then a 3-0 victory in a rematch with Penobscot Valley. Plummer dominated in the circle, tossing a three-hitter.

“We always had the goal of getting back there and proving we could do it,” said Plummer, who is attending graduate school in Florida. “A lot of it was going out with a bang, because it was our senior year, and we knew if we didn’t do it then we’d never have another shot.

“It’s cool to know, when you look back on history, that we were the first team that started that big run. It’s something we’ll never forget.”

It was only the start, and Tony Martin could see a wave of talent arriving from the freshman and middle school levels.

“Seeing those girls and looking behind them … I could see some strength that was coming up through,” he said. “But to go without losing games, I never thought that would happen.”

In 2014, with Meranda Martin now leading the way in the circle, Richmond beat Greenville in the West final 7-2, and then Limestone in the state championship 11-5. The streak kept building, as the Bobcats roughed up Searsport 12-0 before beating Stearns 9-4 in the championship in 2015, and then beat Buckfield 13-2 to set up a 15-6 win over Stearns in the final in 2016.

Each Richmond team had the same calling cards: a reliable pitcher and catcher battery and a fundamentally sound defense.

“Defensively, we were real tough,” Coughlin said. “If we didn’t do it well (in practice), we ran.”

That didn’t mean different teams didn’t stand out. The 2015 team was named MaxPreps’s Small Schools Softball Team of the Year. And Tony Martin said the 2016 team — which featured seniors Anair, Kalah Patterson and Autumn Acord and pummeled playoff opponents 46-9 over three games — might have been the best squad from the streak.

“That was a strong group,” he said. “All the way down through the lineup, we always had girls that were going to make contact, and they could make the plays and you could put girls in different positions.”

Richmond shortstop Caitlin Kendrick make a play during a 2017 game at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

The streak, however, wasn’t much of a conversation topic between the Richmond players. The Bobcats knew what they were doing, but they weren’t letting it become a bigger deal than the next opponent on the schedule.

“We didn’t go to practice and be like ‘Oh, we’re at so-and-so games,’ ” said Anair, who is serving in the National Guard. “It was more like ‘What do we have to do to win?’ We never let it get into our heads, because we thought it would mess with our game.”

If anything, pressure came from the outside — the longer the streak went, the more the members of the Richmond community talked about it, and the more media coverage reminded the players of what they were doing.

“Definitely. Even the school (talked about it), it was in the papers,” Anair said. “But whenever we hit the field for practice or a game, we just pushed it all away and did what we did best.”

The coaches, first Coughlin and then Martin, made it a point to keep any pressure or stress from getting to the players.

“I had to say ‘Don’t worry about the streak,’ ” Coughlin said. “Take it one game at a time, and try to win. And they did.”

There were close calls. Richmond trailed Sacopee Valley by two runs before winning 4-3 in the bottom of the seventh in 2016, and overcame a 1-0 seventh-inning deficit to beat Traip 2-1 in 2017.

But the streak continued, and as it became impossible to ignore, the Bobcats learned to have fun with it.

“Honestly, we kind of just had fun with it,” said Meranda Martin, who attends St. Joseph’s College in Standish. “I’m not the type of person that gets super nervous about things, about sports and stuff like that. … We pretty much went into every game and said we were going to have fun with it.”

Eventually, the streak did end, at the hand of Penobscot Valley and a superb freshman pitcher in Leine McKechnie, who no-hit Richmond and slugged a three-run home run in a 4-0 win in the 2017 Class D final.

After the game, Meranda Martin and fellow senior Camryn Hurley wrote to Anair, telling her that the run was over.

“I just remember (thinking) how devastating that would be,” Anair said. “But I also thought of how far we’d come, and I was like ‘You know what? Don’t worry about it. We accomplished so much, more than pretty much any team has.’

“It was a great accomplishment. And that’s something we won’t forget.”

 

 


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