Buckfield left fielder Margaret Bragg makes a running catch in foul territory during Wednesday’s game against Greenville High School in Standish. Bragg made an out on the play. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)
STANDISH — Buckfield coach Sandy Albert had no interest in pulling her team down from Cloud 9 after beating eight-time regional champion Richmond in the Class D South semifinals.
“I kept them there so they could enjoy that moment of, ‘You can do it. We’re really good. You just have to believe,'” she said.
Albert wanted to keep the good vibes and momentum going into Wednesday night’s regional final against top-seeded Greenville.
And for one inning, it seemed like nothing was going to bring the third-seeded Bucks back to earth. If anything, a two-run top of the first that included two Greenville errors on one play indicated the Lakers were the ones whose season might be in for a crash landing.
To the contrary, Greenville coach Mike Cabral was feeling even more confident after getting his first look at the Bucks, as ugly as the inning was for the Lakers.
“We took a look at what they had and we actually felt very good coming out of that first inning,” Cabral said. “We’re a team that hits very well. We knew that we were going to score. We saw what they had and we actually came out feeling very, very confident about our chances.”
“We felt confident because we’ve been there before,” Greenville sophomore pitcher Halle Pelletier said. “Sometimes we have a bad first inning. It happens. But I know that we’ll always pull through batting.”
Sure enough, the Lakers’ bats came alive against Buckfield pitcher Julia Dow in the second inning. The Bucks’ inexperience also showed, with two key errors that greased the skids on a four-run frame that gave Greenville the lead for good and ultimately propelled it to its first regional title with a 9-3 win.
The Bucks never recovered from the second inning. Greenville scored three more runs in the third to make it 7-2.
“We didn’t hit well today. We didn’t hit like we could,” Albert said. “We just didn’t play as well as we can today.”
Greenville knew how to deal with the momentum changes, in part because they were in Buckfield’s shoes just a year earlier, when they lost to Richmond, 14-6, in the regional final.
The Lakers started six freshmen in that game, including Pelletier.
“It was so much better this year, just having the experience from last year,” Pelletier said. “(Last year), we were playing against the holy grail in Richmond.”
“It was something they weren’t quite ready for. They were a little over their head,” Greenville coach Mike Cabral said. “This year, they anticipated being here. They were expecting this game, and they’ve worked hard all year to get here.”
On Wednesday night, those now sophomores combined for eight of Greenville’s nine hits (8-for-18). And Pelletier got stronger in the circle as the game unfolded.
“(Experience) probably helped them. It can’t hurt,” Albert said. “They hit really well. They hit better than I expected off of Julia.”
Dow was one of three juniors joined by three underclassmen (two freshmen, one sophomore) in the Bucks’ lineup. It is quite possible — in Albert’s opinion, likely — that they will get a shot at putting what they learned in a loss to good use in another championship game, just like Greenville.
“It gives the underclassmen some experience. We’ll be back. I know we’re going to be back,” Albert said.
Jessica Pomerleau, left, and Emily Vraux of Greenville hug after the Lakers beat the Buckfield Bucks 9-3 to win the Class D South championship in Standish on Wednesday. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)