STANDISH – Last year, the Rangeley Lakers were a little awe-struck when they met the Richmond Bobcats in the Western D final. This year, they just struck the baseball, again and again and again.

Rangeley pounded out 11 hits against Richmond starter Kyle Lancaster and Ben Bliss tossed a five-hitter as the third-seeded Lakers clinched their first regional title ever with a 6-1 upset over top-seeded and previously undefeated Richmond Tuesday night at Larry Mahaney Diamond on the campus of St. Joseph’s College.

The Lakers will face the winner of the Ashland/Deer Isle-Stonington Eastern Maine final at noon on Saturday at St. Joe’s.

“It’s surreal. We’ve been waiting so long for this,” said junior catcher David Raymond, who led Rangeley with three hits. “We’ve been working so hard. We played our best game, and that’s what it took.”

Richmond (17-1) had beaten Rangeley (12-4) twice during the regular season, 5-1 and 17-9. But the Bobcats had never faced the quick-working Bliss before. The junior struck out four and walked two and needed only 88 pitches. He had one inning where he threw four pitches, and another where he needed just seven to send the Bobcats down, 1-2-3.

“I just wanted to hit the spots, hit the corners, and try to find their weaknesses throughout the game,” Bliss said. “Some of their kids like it high and inside, and they just swing at it every time and can’t make good contact.”

“We weren’t patient,” Richmond coach Ryan Gardner said. “We were driving the ball into the ground and popping them up.”

Bliss gave up a walk and a single through the first three innings but had still faced the minimum through the game’s first 10 batters thanks to Raymond throwing out a would-be stealer in the first and the middle infield turning a perfect 4-6-3 double play in the third.

“He doesn’t overpower hitters,” Raymond said, “He just works the corners so nicely, and that’s what it takes.”

The Lakers handed Lancaster his first loss in three years with two four-hit innings. Bliss’ two-run double in the third broke a scoreless tie, but he was cut down at third by Lancaster trying to advance to third on a high throw home.

That kept the Lakers out of a potential big inning, but they made up for it in the sixth with the help of the last of Richmond’s four errors. Zeke Hall and Quinn Philbrick sparked the rally with back-to-back singles to start the inning. Lancaster then threw the ball away trying to get Hall at third on Roy White’s bunt, allowing Hall to score. Lancaster then balked home Philbrick to make it 4-0. Zac Abbott followed with a double to drive White home and chase Lancaster from the game. Ryan Gordon moved him to third with a bunt against reliever Sam Carter and Luke Hammond drove him home with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-0.

“Eventually, we were going to get Lancaster,” Rangeley coach Mark Gordon said. “We’ve hit him in the past, but they were a couple of hits here and there and not one right after the other.”

Bliss faced just two serious threats to his shutout. He surrendered back-to-back walks with one out in the sixth, but got the heart of Richmond’s order, Lancaster and Carter, on a fielder’s choice and swinging strike out, respectively. The Bobcats loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Bliss induced a pop out to Raymond to set off Rangeley’s celebration.

“We couldn’t get the timely hitting we’ve had all year, and I don’t think we’ve made four errors in a game all season,” Gardner said.


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