BUCKFIELD — Another one-run game. More seventh-inning dramatics. Standard stuff from the two standard bearers in Western Class D softball.
Buckfield’s Brittany Wiley struck out Noel Acord to end an eerily familiar Richmond rally, strand the potential tying run at second base Tuesday afternoon and secure a 6-5 East-West Conference victory.
Previously unbeaten Richmond (5-1) rallied from a five-run deficit on two-out, two-run singles by Danica Hurley in the sixth inning and Payton Johnson in the seventh.
With Johnson lurking at second base, Wiley weaved her ninth whiff of the day at Noel Acord’s expense to ice it. The senior walked only one and froze a total of nine Bobcats on base, five in scoring position.
“I wouldn’t say I feel comfortable in that situation, but it definitely puts more pressure on it and makes it worth more,” Wiley said. “I’ve been waiting all year for this game. It was our turn.”
Buckfield (7-2) dropped a heart-breaker in the first half of the home-and-home series, watching a lead slip away in an 8-7 loss April 29 — the second game of the season.
The rivals almost assuredly will meet a third time in the regional finals at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish next month. No other active member of the EWC has won the Western title since 1988.
Both schools fill the gaps in their schedules with Class C non-league opponents. In the four EWC games between its two encounters with Richmond, Buckfield won by a combined score of 55-4.
“It’s really enjoyable, and it’s the only competition we have,” Richmond coach Rick Coughlin said. “I know if we meet in the Western Maine final we’re just going to start in the seventh inning. There’s no sense in playing any of the others. I was kind of hoping history would repeat itself today.”
This time, the Bucks built too big an advantage.
Wiley blanked the Bobcats until the fifth inning, when Lindsy Hoopingarner’s RBI single trimmed Buckfield’s cushion to 2-1.
Two well-placed bunts, a pair of Richmond errors and a triple by Alicia Patrie constructed Buckfield’s four-run response in the bottom of the frame.
“This is how we seem to play each other,” said Buckfield coach Ken Farrington. “And the way our division is right now, it’s the two of us. It’s hard to keep them focused to be able to go all the way.”
Patrie and Abby Bragg each had two of Buckfield’s eight hits against freshman Jamie Plummer. Richmond’s primary pitcher, Leandra Martin, is sidelined with a torn ACL in her knee. Martin suffered the same injury to her other knee a year ago.
Richmond cracked a dozen hits against Wiley. The veteran saved her best work for the most murky situations, though.
Wiley retired seven straight after Richmond opened the second inning with back-to-back singles by Brianna Snedeker and Danielle Bunikis.
Snedeker’s second of three singles on the day sparked a serious threat in the fourth. Two errors in Bunikis’ at-bat and a walk by Morgan Rines loaded the bases before Wiley fanned Johnson and Acord to escape.
“It’s unbelievable, her mindset this year,” Farrington said of Wiley. “She’s on a mission. She lost in the state championship game. She knows what she did, and she’s working hard this year to give us the location we need.”
Buckfield, in turn, gave its ace the breathing room she required.
Heather Clavet’s walk and consecutive singles by Bragg and Danielle Patrie combined with a throwing error to give Buckfield a 2-0 edge in the second.
Six Richmond errors, in all, helped Buckfield’s cause.