The beginning of the season, particularly in softball, is that hope springs eternal.
That is, unless you’re a Class D South coach at a school other than Richmond.
The Bobcats are the four-time defending Class D state champs and enter the season on a 70-game winning streak. Oh, and according to the other coaches in the region, they’re the team to beat once again.
“I think it’s all dominated by Richmond,” Rangeley coach Chip Smith said. “I think it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion to most of us, it’s just trying to compete and win the games that are at hand. Richmond’s just on a total different echelon than all the other schools in Class D South.”
But ask second-year Richmond coach Tony Martin — who was an assistant for the first three title-winning teams — and it could be anybody’s year.
“I think it’s going to be real competitive,” Martin said. “I think it’s going to be tough. I know Buckfield is going to be right there. They’re going to be good this year. And Vinalhaven is going to be right there. Not sure what Rangeley’s going to have. They’re always an unknown. They always give you a good game.”
Buckfield is aiming to be the team that knocks the Bobcats off their perch. And the Bucks have as much motivation as anybody to do so, after having three of their four losses last year come at the hands of Richmond.
“I expect that we can give them some great games this year,” Buckfield coach Sandy Albert said.
Martin said he thinks the Bucks have the battery and infield to give his team some trouble.
His team, on the other hand, has some holes to fill.
“I lost my third baseman, shortstop, center fielder last year, so we’re going to be having new kids in new positions, and younger kids in the infield, and it’s going to be a learning curve for us,” Martin said.
The Bobcats also might not have the same offensive firepower they did last year, when they scored 18, 13 and 15 runs in their three postseason games.
That might be good news for a Rangeley team that opens up the season at Richmond. Smith’s squad should be steady defensively and have enough hitting to compete, but the Lakers have no experience at pitcher.
Smith said his team is aiming to finish in the middle of the pack in Class D South, and a top-three finish would exceed expectations.
The Lakers will have to jump the likes of Richmond, Buckfield and Vinalhaven/North Haven to do so. Albert also mentioned Temple Academy as a potential contender, while Martin said Forest Hills has the pitching to compete.
Whether anybody can snap the Bobcats’ streak — either the wins or the titles — remains to be seen.
“I talked to the girls first part of the year on it. You know, streaks are meant to be broken,” Martin said. “We got to play our game, and play one game at a time. We’re going to play some tough teams.”
Before the Bobcats face Rangeley in the Lakers’ opener, they’ll match up with Vinalhaven/North Haven and Class C opponent Sacopee Valley, which Martin said will be a tough game.
The Bobcats and Bucks face off for the first time on May 2.
“You never know what can happen with this game. It is always a matter of the team that can be more mentally tough in close games,” Albert said.