AUBURN — Alexis Bennett wasn’t sure life could get any better than Saturday.

The Buckfield senior was part of a softball semifinal victory in the morning and graduated that evening.

“The day we graduated, it’s funny because even before I graduated that day, I thought it was the best day of my life,” Bennett said.

The Bucks beat Vinalhaven that morning in the Class D South semifinals, edging the Vikings 3-2 and escaping a threat in the seventh inning. Now the Bucks return to the regional finals, and Bennett has the chance to top Saturday’s thrill. The Bucks face unbeaten Richmond, a team boasting a 67-game winning streak

“It’s definitely always been my dream to go there and it’s pretty awesome that it’s my senior year,” the Bucks’ shortstop said of Wednesday’s 7 p.m. regional championship at Saint Joseph’s College.

Buckfield has a rich championship history as does two other local teams returning to the regional finals after a long absence. Edward Little plays Skowhegan Tuesday at 6:30 at Cony High School, while Lisbon plays Madison Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Saint Joseph’s College.

Edward Little won back-to-back state titles in 1996 and 1997, while Lisbon won state crowns in 1982, 1990 and 1992.

Buckfield’s softball program has been a staple of the championship games over the last few decades. The Bucks have won nine state titles and 13 regional championships. The last appearance in the regional game was 2011. That ended a run of six straight trips to the regional final.

Coach Sandy Albert won two state titles as a player, while her father, Dan Jack, now an assistant coach, won five state championships and six regional titles as the coach. Since losing to Richmond in 2011, the Bucks have been making progress toward a return.

“We felt from the beginning of the season, everyone was saying that this was the year we could do it,” Bennett said. “We had to take advantage of how amazing our team was.”

The Bucks (15-3) lost to Richmond 13-9 and 14-2 in the regular season. The Bobcats (16-0) outscored opponents 254-25 this spring. Buckfield scored 11 of those runs. Richmond has won six straight regional titles and three straight state crowns.

“Basically, how I feel is that they have everything to lose and we have everything to gain,” Bennett said.

It was nearly 20 years ago that EL won back-to-back state titles. The current Red Eddies certainly don’t remember those wins but the coaching staff does. Gene Keene, an assistant with the Red Eddies this year, was the coach back then. Current coach Elaine Derosby was assisting her father in 1997, while her sister Nicole Chapman, another current assistant, was the pitcher.

“We had Coach Keene come back and help coach this year,” senior pitcher Sarah Hammond said. “So it’s been one whole history lesson kind of thing. Nicole would tell us something and then Coach Derosby would share her part and then Coach Keene would share his part. It’s one little family affair that’s one big story. We loved it.”

The talk of the glory years has only increased as EL has prepared for this year’s tourney. Though the Red Eddies have just two seniors, this is a team that’s been a contender from the start.

“Over the past two weeks, all the coaches have talked about how the ’96 and ’97 teams made it,” senior catcher Karli Stubbs said. “Coach Keene always talks about it. He’s always pushing us to do our best.”

Hearing those tales of championships past has only fueled this team. To finally reach a level that no team since has done, is making this team’s progress all the more meaningful.

“It’s really exciting,” Hammond said. “On a personal level, I’ve been playing for Coach Derosby and Coach Chapman for four years. Over those four years, we’ve talked about it so much. They’ve done it. I respect them so much. It’s an honor to be able to do what they’ve done.”

Fourth-seeded EL is coming off a stunning 1-0 win over the defending state champs from Messalonskee. All three of the top seeds are eliminated, leaving Tuesday’s title up for grabs.

“That game was really exciting for us, especially Sarah (Hammond) and I because we’d never beaten them before,” Stubbs said of the semifinal win. “So we’re just hoping to take all that energy and bring it tomorrow.”

EL (13-5) beat Skowhegan in the regular season 6-4, but the sixth-ranked Indians (11-7) have won nine of its last 10 games. Skowhegan won the regional title in 2013 and 2014 and won states two years ago but have a younger team this spring.

“We’re definitely excited,” Stubbs said. “We just have to stay focused like we did the last two games.”

Many of the Red Eddies played on the soccer team that won a regional title and lost in the state game in 2015. Some played on the basketball team that won its first regional title and lost in states this past winter.

“I think it helps with the experience and with calming the nerves a little bit,” said Stubbs, a standout with the basketball squad. “But, it’s a different sport and a different team and a different atmosphere. It’s going to be interesting.”

None of the Lisbon players were born when the Greyhounds were in their glory years under Charlene Bennett. Lisbon won three state titles during that time and also compiled a number of winning streaks, including 38 straight wins, 47 consecutive home wins and 49 straight wins in the Mountain Valley Conference. To be the first team to come close to that success is a special accomplishment.

“It feels amazing,”  junior outfielder Ali Sult said. “For me personally, it’s a dream come true to say I was on the softball team for Lisbon and were able to get this far.”

Lisbon went 10-7 and lost in the quarterfinals last season. Despite a 4-1 start this spring, the Greyhounds struggled to get into the contender conversation.

“Nobody’s ever expected anything out of Lisbon softball since I’ve been around,” junior pitcher Alyssa Hall said. “It’s kind of nice to shock everyone in town and have a change in the program and show how far we’ve gone.”

The Greyhounds competed against some of the top teams this spring and showed great potential at times, but with no seniors, Lisbon was still arriving.

“A lot of people told us this year that we wouldn’t make it because we weren’t that good,” Sult said. “To prove them wrong was something incredible. I’m very proud of my team for what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

The Greyhounds (12-6) may still have something to prove against Madison (18-0). Lisbon was the only team team to beat Madison in the regular season last year but lost to the Bulldogs 9-1 earlier in the year. 

“I think we can compete,” Hall said. “We’ve gotten a lot better since we played them the last time. We’re excited. We know we can do anything if we do our best. We’ve been looking to having our best game on this day.”

Coming off a thrilling win over the defending regional champs from Telstar, the Greyhounds have momentum going against the Bulldogs, the MVC champs, which lost in the regional final last year but won the previous two, including states in 2014.

“As long as we go in with our hearts in the game, we’re going to do everything we can possibly do to win,” Sult said. “It’s our goal to win and make it (to states). If it doesn’t happen, I know we’re all very proud of where we were able to get this year.”

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