RICHMOND — The murky ground may not have been ideal for a Buckfield-Richmond high school baseball game with major implications in Class D South baseball, but at least the region’s playoff picture is a little less muddy.

Andrew Vachon scored on a throwing error by the pitcher in the bottom of the ninth to give Richmond a 7-6 East-West Conference win over Buckfield on Wednesday. 

The win gived the Bobcats the No. 2 seed in D South and secures a bye to the semifinals where, most likely, the Bobcats will again host the Bucks provided the Bucks beat Vinalhaven/North Haven in the quarterfinals.

“We went into the game knowing that if we won the game, we get to play these guys on our field,” said Richmond’s Jason Vachon, who threw three scoreless innings of relief to pick up the win. “We don’t have to go there, and we can start the playoffs on our field.”

“I think it’s going to come down to the same thing,” Richmond coach Ryan Gardner said of a likely rematch. “Hopefully, it will be a little bit drier.”

The win also earned the Bobcats, who took two out of three from the Bucks during the season, the EW-C championship. But they had to rally from two runs down in the sixth to earn it.

Buckfield (9-6) broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the sixth thanks to two-out hits by Shane St. Pierrre (RBI double) and Rick Kraske (RBI single).

Richmond (10-4) pulled to within 6-5 on Nick Adams’ two-out single in the bottom of the sixth, but pitcher Tyler Gammon threw out the trail runner, representing the tying run, at the plate, to temporarily preserve the lead.

Justin Vachon came on in relief of his brother Andrew and stranded a pair of Bucks in the top of the seventh. A walk and an error put the Vachons at the corners to start the bottom of the frame. Gammon then fielded a grounder back to the mound and threw to first for the first out of the inning, but the Bucks got a little greedy trying to throw out Justin Vachon as he was hung up between second and third. As the throw from first went to second, Andrew Vachon broke for home and scored the tying run.

Justin Vachon set Buckfield down 1-2-3 in both the eighth and ninth.

“I went in there knowing that I had to pitch well to win the game,” Justin Vachon said. “I was throwing as hard as I could. It was probably one of the best games I’ve had. I just started throwing fastballs. Coach told me to throw the ball down the middle and let the defense field the ball.”

Richmond committed six errors through the first six innings, but none in Justin Vachon’s three innings of work.

“Justin came in and pounded the zone,” Gardner said. “I think Andrew got a little enamored with his curveball and changeup and threw it to people who shouldn’t have seen it. So, we talked a little bit about that and when Justin went in, we said ‘Pound the zone.’”

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Andrew Vachon walked then stole second and third. With two outs, Danny Stewart hit a tapper to the mound right of the mound, where Kraske, a lefty in his second inning of relief of Gammon, slipped on the wet grass while fielding it and fell to his knees. His rushed throw to first was wild and allowed Vachon to score the winning run.

“There were a lot of plays over to first in the dirt, the balls were getting wet, and everybody is trying to live through those, because the state of Maine is wet,” Gardner said.

“Tyler threw the ball real well and then Rick threw the ball real well after that,” Buckfield coach Richard Finnegan said. “It was just basically those two errors that killed us. We just rushed that last throw a little bit.”

Buckfield scored all but one of its runs with two outs. That included Gammon’s RBI single in the first and Kaleb Harvey’s dash from third to home on a wild pitch that made it 2-0 Bucks after two.

Richmond tied it with two in the third when Andrew Vachon scored on Stewart’s groundout to short and Mitch Couturier’s two-out single plated Jason Vachon.

After the Bucks scored an unearned run to regain the lead in the fourth, the Bobcats tied it in the bottom of the frame on an RBI double by Ben Gardner, then took their first lead on Adams’ RBI single. 

Buckfield rallied to tie it again with an unearned run in the fifth.

Gardner said aside from the outcome, it was good to battle through a nip-and-tuck game. Neither team has had many competitive games in their conference schedules.

“The kids stuck with it and never quit. Both teams,” Gardner said. “That was a baseball game today. At the end of the season, you want your team to play a baseball game, not these 21-1 (games). And they (Buckfield) run into the same thing.”

“We’re used to playing here,” Finnegan said of a potential rematch in the semifinals. “We’ll see where we go from here, but we’re ready to go. The only losses we’ve had are against Richmond and Class C (teams), so we’re definitely ready to go. We’ll bounce back.”

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