MEMBERS OF THE Richmond High School softball team move through the ladder during a drill at Tuesday’s practice. The Bobcats have won 70 games in a row and are coming off their fifth straight Class D State Title.

MEMBERS OF THE Richmond High School softball team move through the ladder during a drill at Tuesday’s practice. The Bobcats have won 70 games in a row and are coming off their fifth straight Class D State Title.

RICHMOND

What it’s like to start a season having won the past five Class D State Championships? What’s it like to have won 70 games in a row?

Ask members of the Richmond High School softball team and they’ll tell you it’s really no big deal.

SYDNEY UNDERHILL-TILTON jumps rope during softball practice at Richmond High School on Tuesday.

SYDNEY UNDERHILL-TILTON jumps rope during softball practice at Richmond High School on Tuesday.

The Bobcats are in the gym gearing up for another title defense this week, and for second-year coach Tony Martin, it’s only little things on his mind. A big win streak or another title simply isn’t there.

“I try not to think about it because this is only my second year as head coach,” Martin said. “And I just tell the girls ‘Let’s go out and play our game and have fun.’

“All streaks are meant to be broken. At some point in time, this year, next year, year after, it’s probably going to be broken. As long as we play our game, play to our potential, that’s all we ask for.”

For Martin’s daughter Meranda, a senior lead-off hitter and leader of the team, it’s much of the same.

“We don’t really talk about,” she said. “Nothing really goes around the school about it. We just go out when we play a game and think ‘Let’s win, let’s play our best and whatever happens, happens.’”

Richmond, which finished 13-0 in the regular season and defeated Stearns in the title game, will be hitting the diamond with limited numbers this year — just 10 players were at Tuesday’s practice. Coach Martin expects 12 or 13 to be on the roster full time, but this preseason still might be more important than years past.

Both getting fit and getting comfortable are priorities.

“Right now is just getting the girls healthy and staying in shape,” Coach Martin said. “It’s going to be a long season inside, so we’ve got plenty of time to keep in shape. We’re going to focus a lot on hitting here after the first couple of days and infield stuff — what we can do.

“You can’t do a lot of outfield stuff because you just don’t have the space to do that. But you can do a lot of infield drills inside. It does get kind of old being inside four walls, but there’s all kind of little drills you can do to make it interesting, keep the kids focused.”

Tuesday started with a light jog around the gym and then moved into ladder drills and jump rope. Some things come easy indoors, others not so much.

“Taking grounders is a little different and hard to get into once you get outside,” outfielder Caitlin Kendrick said. “For hitting, pitching and the big-picture ideas, we’ve got it pretty good.”

Kendrick is one of many players that will be moving around and switching positions quite a bit. Bryanne Lancaster, a freshman who pitched in middle school, will likely pitch a few games and get some time in the outfield. Kendrick will move into the infield and others will switch off.

“It’s going to be moving the kids around a lot and getting them familiar with all the positions,” Coach Martin said. “Because with small numbers and if somebody does happen to get hurt, you’ve got to be able to move people around and understand the game, infield and outfield.”

By the time the snow clears and the field is available, the Bobcats may not have much time to rotate and try different positions before the season starts. Regardless, they won’t have the numbers to have players cemented at particular spots.

Better to start getting acclimated now.

“I’ve got four pitchers — a senior, junior, sophomore and a freshman — and I want to get all of them equal playing time,” the coach said. “They’re all going to see the mound. Some of the younger kids are going to play different positions. I’ve got to get kids out there to play other positions to get used to it and get ready.”

On paper

To the start the season, Richmond will host Vinalhaven/ North Haven on April 18 at 1 p.m. Despite a pair of comfortable wins in a doubleheader last year, Coach Martin thinks it will be a true test and that the visitors will be “on a high” after a state championship in basketball and ready to play.

Then, in the second game on April 22, it’s a rematch with Sacopee Valley, which gave the Bobcats their only close game of the regular season (a 4-3 walk-off win).

Though, facing a worthy opponent early might be a good thing.

“It’s going to be tough for us, as well as it will be tough for them,” Tony Martin said. “We’re going to have to be focused early on, we’re going to have to pick it up. I think having those tough games early on is good for us. Hopefully we have a few more of those games toward the end of the season.”

“I think they’re going to be a good test for the beginning of the season,” Kendrick said. “It’d be nice to get them out of the way and get those wins under our belt.”

Also on the schedule this season are Western Maine Conference opponents St. Dominic Academy (April 28 and May 30) and Traip Academy (May 11), two teams Richmond has never played before.

Coach Martin can scout another game or talk to some other coaches to prepare, but maybe an unfamiliar opponent is a good thing too.

“Sometimes it’s not bad just going into the unknown,” Coach Martin said. “That means I can play my game and play the best we can. We’ve got Traip Academy also this year that we’ve never played so it’s going to be good.”

“I think it’s better off that we play someone that we’ve never seen before,” Meranda Martin said. “They’ve never seen us before, we’ve never played each other. It’s just another challenge for us.”

One sure-fire thing the Bobcats have going for them is familiarity. Almost all the players on the team have played other sports with each other and everyone has known each other for years.

In Richmond, the middle school is connected to the high school and everyone’s in the same building together for a long time.

“I think it’s going to be a good year,” Meranda Martin said. “The few new faces that we have did play soccer and basketball with us, so in those sports we’ve gelled really well together. I think we’re going to have great chemistry and I think we’re going to have fun.”

You won’t find anyone in the program that would tell you light numbers or a challenging new schedule is reason to rule out a sixth title in a row.

Especially not a senior like Martin.

“It’s my senior year, last year playing high school ball, go out there and give it my all,” Meranda Martin said. “For our team goal, I think this year it’s going to be a little tougher for us. We need to take it game by game. Look at the state game, want to win the state game but just work on game to game and do our best.”

“My expectation is like last year, to win the Gold Ball,” Kendrick said. “We’re pretty much capable of it.”


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