RICHMOND — Tony Martin came into the unique 2021 season with an open mind and few expectations for his young team. After reaching the Class D South final in 2019 and falling to Greenville, Martin returned just four players and has just 12 players overall in the program.

“We’ve come a long way from where we were at back in March,” said the Richmond head softball coach, who found himself down two starters on Saturday. “Something you can’t teach is experience, so that’s been a big thing for us as we play these games.”

On Saturday, Richmond welcomed Vinalhaven to town for a doubleheader, which the two teams split. Richmond took the first game 10-9, while Vinalhaven bounced back to take the second game 14-6. 

With three eighth graders and two freshmen on the roster, the Bobcats still find themselves learning as they go. Despite the lack of experience, they have been producing, as they now have a 5-2 record after the split with the Vikings, who are now 3-1.

“I’ve been happy with how we’re playing. We’ve really been picking it up at the plate recently,” said Martin. “We’re starting to find our flow. I just wouldn’t say we’re all the way there yet.”

Richmond senior Leah Wescott looks at each game as a building block as the team gears up for the open playoff tournament later in the season. Like Coach Martin, she knows how valuable that in-game experience is. 

“We went into the year with a mindset that we’d be building up as we go this year, so we use everything as a learning experience and know that even the bad things are helping us in the long run,” said Wescott, who found herself catching behind the plate for the first time on Saturday. 

“With how everything has gone for us this season, we’re putting a lot of players in positions they’ve never played before. I just wanted to try and do my part to help the team, and I had a blast back there.”

Richmond’s Nicole Tribbet throws a pitch to the plate in first game of doubleheader against Vinalhaven on Saturday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

As one of three Richmond seniors, Wescott has been trying to step into a leadership role that was vacant coming into the season.

“I definitely want to do anything I can to help our younger girls and help them pick up on things at the varsity level,” she said. “It’s a really nice feeling knowing that you’re helping out the team now, and in the long run.”

As for the underclassmen, the Bobcats start five who hadn’t seen a varsity diamond prior to this season. While it was a little nerve racking a first, sophomore Kara Briand has settled into her role as a full-time starter.

“I just do what the coaches ask of me. It’s definitely slowed down for me each game we play,” said Briand, who hit third in both games. “I think a lot of us have really shown some improvement and have started to get a better feel for the game.”

Martin hopes his team’s improvement and the momentum gained throughout the season will help in the long run.

“This is the fun part where you can learn from your mistakes and grow together as a team,” said Martin. “Things obviously change when the tournament comes around, but we’re still taking each game one at a time.”

In Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, Richmond’s offense stayed hot from its last game, a 12-11 win over Dirigo. The Bobcats’ offense racked up 12 hits off Vinalhaven starter Hope Cluff to give starting pitcher Nicole Tribbet the victory, despite not having her command at times.

Vinalhaven’s Gracey Warren slides safely into second as Richmond shortstop Izzy Stewart waits for the throw on Saturday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“Even though we are young, we have so much confidence overall as a team when we’re at the plate,” said Wescott. “Confidence alone can help you so much in a big offensive game like this one.”

Vinalhaven turned the tide in the second game, with eighth grader Aubri Hoose earning the win on the mound. Hoose also had a big day at the plate, including smacking her first varsity home run in the first game.

Wescott, Briand, Tribbet, Jaiden Alexander and Lila Viselli each had multiple hits for the Bobcats.

Isabelle Stewart took the loss on the mound for the Bobcats in Game 2, her first career varsity start. 

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