STANDISH — The Searsport and Richmond baseball teams have made meeting for a spot in the Class D state championship a routine. The games aren’t always close.

Wednesday afternoon, the latest edition of the regional rivalry between the Vikings and Bobcats, provided an exception.

Nate Ashey scored twice, including the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh, to help back an impressive outing from Josh Wright and lead No. 3 Searsport back to the Class D final with a 4-3 victory over No. 1 Richmond at St. Joseph’s College’s Larry Mahaney Diamond.

Searsport improved to 9-10. Richmond finished at 13-3.

“We found it just in time,” said Searsport coach John Frye, whose team lost a 3-0 lead before rallying in the seventh. “Two great programs battling it out, and somebody had to win today. It’s too bad, both teams are really good.”

“We have come a long way since preseason,” Ashey said. “Our team is capable of a lot of things.”

Richmond was playing Searsport in the regional final for the fifth time in six seasons, having lost 11-1 in 2019, 6-2 in ’17 and 13-3 in ’15 and won 14-6 in 2018. The Bobcats made it to the brink of their fifth Class D final since 2006 despite having only one senior in shortstop and pitcher Andrew Vachon.

“(It came down to) one hit, and two of their runs were hit batsmen and one was a walk,” Richmond coach Ryan Gardner said. “Too many giveaways by us, but we battled back. We’ve got one senior. I’m so proud of the kids. We just didn’t get the one hit we needed.”

Richmond sophomore baserunner Connor Vashon celebrates after scoring the tying run in the bottom of 6th inning of the Class D South championship game against Searsport on Wednesday at St. Joseph’s College in Standish. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Richmond scored runs in the fourth, fifth and then sixth to tie it. In the Searsport dugout, the Vikings, themselves young with only three seniors and 10 freshmen and sophomores, weren’t rattled.

“Nothing bothers them,” Frye said. “They don’t get down, they don’t get nervous, because they haven’t been there. So they don’t know.”

Ashey got the seventh started by drawing a walk and stealing second. Sam Cahill dropped a bunt to move him to third, and catcher Hunter Mason had to scramble to try to get the out at first. The throw went wild, allowing Ashey to come home with the go-ahead run.

Richmond immediately threatened in the bottom half, with Max Viselli drawing a one-out walk and Chance Taylor following one out later with a single up the middle that put runners at the corners.

Wright, a junior, was over 100 pitches but he was determined to finish what he started. His 108th pitch was popped up behind the plate, and Ashey made the catch to finish the game.

Wright finished with six strikeouts and one walk while allowing nine hits.

“This was the goal from the beginning. We all talked about it at the first practice,” Wright said. “There’s nothing better in high school than state championships. … I started getting a little tired, but I bore down, focused and gave what I had.”

Searsport scored its first run when Ashey was hit with the game’s first pitch and then scored on Wright’s double to deep left. The Vikings got two more in the fourth on Chase Brassbridge’s double and Gage Ellis’ single.

Richmond quickly climbed out of the hole. Vachon singled and scored on an error in the fourth, eighth-grader Zander Steele singled and scored on a Viselli single in the fifth, and Connor Vashon singled, moved up on Mason’s single and scored on another hit from Steele in the sixth.

Gardner, who got four innings on the mound from Cole Alexander and three from Andrew Vachon, said the Bobcats knew they would have chances to come back as the game went on.

“We were hitting the ball hard. We just got too much air under the ball,” he said. “We needed more ground balls. We started to do that, I think they started to build confidence, and I think we got to (Searsport) a little bit, running the bases like we usually do.”

The comeback fell short in the end, but spirits among the Bobcats were still high.

“(This season) was a lot more than I expected, to be honest,” Andrew Vachon said. “Personally, a loss right now just makes them want it more. I bet they will want it next year.”

“I told them to channel it,” Gardner said. “You have to go out there and go ‘I want to be that team’ next year. ‘I want to feel like that.'”

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