Buckfield’s Cara Merrill delivers a pitch against Richmond during a Class D South playoff game Wednesday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

RICHMOND — The Buckfield softball team had high hopes of a long playoff run in Class D South this season. 

After a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Richmond in a regional quarterfinal game Wednesday, those hopes are now a reality.

“We’ve been talking about getting this far since our first day in the gym back in March,” said Buckfield’s Alyssa Litchfield. “We don’t want to be overconfident, but we like where we’re at during this point of the season.”

The fifth-seeded Bucks (11-6) advance to the regional semifinals on Saturday. The No. 4 Bobcats finished 9-6.

“We really showed our perseverance and persistence today (Wednesday),” Buckfield head coach Tammy Tatlock said. “I think that (the 5th inning) gave us a little kickstart and got us fired up. We saw the opportunity and knew we couldn’t let it go to waste.”

The Bucks scored three runs with two outs in the fifth inning to take the lead.

Cara Merrill earned the win in the circle, going the distance while striking out five and allowing five runs on seven hits and one walk.

“Her senior leadership showed on the field and in the dugout when we needed it most,” said Tatlock, who’s in her first season coaching the Bucks. “She works hard everyday, and now it’s the time of year where that hard work pays off.”

Buckfield first baseman Kelsey Violette stretches but the throw wasn’t on time to get out Richmond’s Jayden Brilliant during a Class D South playoff game Wednesday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Buckfield also erased that sour taste from losing in this very round in 2019 to Richmond.

“Richmond has always been a big rival for us during my career, so this one means a little more,” Litchfield said. 

Added Richmond coach Tony Martin: “We for sure had our chances, but that was a great game. We let it get away from us in one inning and weren’t able to overcome it.”

Richmond pitcher Brianna Shea took the loss.

“I thought Brianna pitched great, we didn’t really give her any help behind her,” said Martin. 

Shea pitched all seven innings, allowing six runs (four earned) on 10 hits while walking four and striking out six.

It was a big day for Bucks leadoff hitter Emma Stevens-Belanger, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI walk with the bases loaded that ended up being the winning run. 

“We never give up and we all have a strong belief in each other,” Litchfield said. “No matter the situation we always believe we’ll find a way, which we did.”

After the Bobcats retired the first two hitters in the fifth, Cassidy Lowell was hit by pitch for the second time on the day. Abby Albert slapped the next pitch to center to make it a one-run game.

After a conference on the mound between Martin, Shea and Richmond catcher Nicole Tribbet, Shea would walk Stevens-Belanger before escaping the jam.

Richmond Bobcats are all smiles as they walk of the field at the end of an early inning against Buckfield during a Class D South playoff game Wednesday in Richmond. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Down just one run in the 7th, the Bobcats’ first two hitters reached base. After a Breonna Dufresne sacrifice bunt moved each runner up a base, Merrill dug deep and struck out the last two batters to secure the win. 

The Bucks took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. After Lowell was hit by a pitch for the first time, this time with the bases loaded, Litchfield struck a bloop single to center to give the Bucks an early lead.

The Bobcats roared back in the third, scoring all five of their runs in the frame. After Tribbet singled and stole second and Lila Viselli walked, Shea was hit by a pitch to bring Izzy Stewart to the plate in a big spot. Shea promptly delivered a two-run single to make it a 3-2 game.

“We’ve been inconsistent in big spots, which we were again today (Wednesday),” Martin said. “Izzy had a great at-bat in the third to give us some life when we needed it.”

Leah Westcott followed the Stewart single with a bunt single to knot the game at 3, before Dufresne and Jayden Alexander would each come through with RBI singles. 

“We have nothing to hang our heads on, that was a good team we faced and we had a fantastic season,” said Martin. “We’ll be back next season.”

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