RICHMOND  — This wasn’t the same Buckfield squad the Richmond High School baseball team had played three times this season. The Bucks that took the field Friday for the Class D South semifinals struggled with the strike zone, made mistakes in the field and gave Richmond chance after chance to put the game out of reach.

And the Bobcats didn’t let them go to waste.

No. 2 Richmond returnes to the D South final for the third straight year — and fourth in the last five — routing No. 3 Buckfield, 14-2, and needing only five innings to do it.

Richmond, which blew the game open with a nine-run fourth, improved to 11-5 and advanced to face either Searsport or Greenville in the final at St. Joseph’s College. Buckfield finished at 10-7.

“That is the goal, to play on the big field,” Richmond coach Ryan Gardner said.

Buckfield baserunner Kaleb Harvey, left, dives safely into second base ahead of a throw to Richmond second baseman Nick Adams during a Class D South semifinal game on Friday at Richmond High School. (Joe Phelan / Kennebec Journal)

“That’s a good opponent, we got them on an off day I think. And then just put pressure (on).”

Many of the teams in the East-West Conference don’t have the talent level or depth to compete with a program like Richmond, the defending Class D champion. The Bucks weren’t one of them. The teams met three times during the season and Richmond went 2-1, with the rubber match being a narrow 7-6 victory.

On Friday, however, Buckfield was on its heels from the first inning on.

“We didn’t play like we should have,” Bucks coach Richard Finnegan said. “We’re a lot better team than we (were) today. … It’s always a heavyweight fight between us. Today we just didn’t show up.”

The Bucks did get the game’s first run, but Richmond responded in its first opportunity. In the first inning, Andrew Vachon walked, Justin Vachon was hit by a pitch and Danny Stewart’s groundout to second brought in the first Vachon, while a dropped pop-up by the shortstop scored the second. 

In the second, Adam Beaulieu walked and stole second, Ben Gardner singled and Nick Adams’s groundout scored Beaulieu. Ben Gardner scored on a bases-loaded walk to Justin Vachon, and Stewart’s sacrifice fly to right brought in Dakotah Gilpatric for a 5-1 lead.

“We talked about, if we could put pressure, put pressure, good things would happen,” Coach Gardner said. “And we talked about, as soon as we got on, we were going to make them throw the ball around.”

The Bobcats put the game out of reach in the fourth. Two walks, five errors and four Richmond hits provided the formula for a nine-run inning in which the Bobcats sent 12 batters to the plate, though Coach Gardner said the momentum was sparked by an out — specifically, a sacrifice bunt that Gilpatric put down to advance Adams to third. Adams came in on a wild pitch for the first run of the inning, and Buckfield couldn’t stop the bleeding.

“It all kind of kicked off with that bunt Dakotah had,” Ryan Gardner said. “It was perfect, and the kids kind of all jumped on it. That was a perfect play, someone made it and it was just kind of like ‘OK, let’s do it, let’s do it.’ And it just kind of rolled.”

The big inning made it a short afternoon on the mound for Andrew Vachon, who was taken out before the fifth to preserve his pitch count. The sophomore allowed two hits while striking out four and walking one before giving way to Justin Vachon to pitch the final inning.

“We brought it to them today,” Andrew Vachon said. “I was expecting a big battle from them. We just came with a good mentality.”

“Vachon pitched a heck of a game today,” Ferguson said. “I can’t take anything from him. … I don’t think he’s lost a game yet. He’s solid.”

Buckfield scored in the first when Shane St. Pierre reached on an error, advanced on a Richard Kraske single and scored on another error. The Bucks’ second run came in the fifth when Zachary Shields walked and scored on Tyler Gammon’s double.

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