Buckfield’s Hannah Shields connects on a seventh-inning double during Wednesday’s East-West softball game in Richmond. The Bucks beat the Bobcats, 6-2. Times Record photo by Eric Maxim

RICHMOND — Any coach will tell you that it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season. Add to the mix a competitive rivalry between a pair of Class D softball teams, you have a recipe for a good ball game to unfold.

The Buckfield and Richmond softball teams did not disappoint, with the Bucks receiving timely hitting and using a three-run third to take the lead and down the Bobcats, 6-2, in an East-West Conference battle on Wednesday.

“It was so important to come out and grab this win,” Buckfield coach Sandy Albert said after losing to Valley (15-14) a day earlier. “It is tough to come back-to-back and play a team like Richmond after a tough day like yesterday. Richmond-Buckfield (rivalry) has always been this. To come back and play like they did, I am proud of them to come and dig in and be able to get it done.”

Buckfield finishes the regular season at 13-2 and will finish No. 2 in the Class D South Heal points, receiving a first-round bye in the upcoming playoffs.

Richmond fell to 10-4 and will finish the regular season with a make-up game at home against St. Dominic on Friday (4 p.m.). The Bobcats are currently in the No. 3 position in the Heal points.

“We didn’t hit the ball well today. We had to play small ball today to get the runs we did and make them make the plays,” Richmond coach Tony Martin said. “We need to hit against this team, especially when you throw the ball around, because they will take advantage of it.”

Richmond struck first with an unearned run in the second. Ashley Brown led off the frame with a bunt single. A sacrifice bunt by Hannah Moholland moved her to second and a pop-up that was caught by a diving Hannah Shields behind the plate sacrificed her to third. A two-out throwing error to first plated Brown.

The Bucks struck back in the top half of the third. Cassidy Lowell led off the frame with the first of her three singles. Siana Jacobs walked and Lowell came around to score on an RBI single by Maggie Bragg to tie the game. Martin intentionally walked Shields to load the bases, but a single by McKenna Ridlon scored Jacobs for the lead. Bragg plated the third run of the inning on a wild pitch. Richmond pitcher Bryanne Lancaster fanned the next two hitters to strand a pair of runners.

“We knew we had to forget about yesterday and bring all we’ve got because we knew (Richmond) would do the same, so we had to come right back at them today,” Buckfield catcher Shields said.

After Buckfield added a run in the fourth, Richmond put a couple of runners on in the bottom half after two outs. But Leah Wescott inadvertently touched her perfectly placed bunt while running down the first base line to end the inning.

In the fifth, Richmond’s leadoff hitter, Nicole Tribbet, hit the first pitch from Cara Merrill straight up the middle to open the frame. Two pitches later, Lancaster also singled, moving Tribbet to third. Caitlin Kendrick hit a sacrifice fly to knock in Richmond’s second run. Merrill induced a fly out and Shields ended the inning when she hopped out from behind the plate and caught a pop-up, while tip-toeing along the out-of-play line near the first-base dugout.

“Her play helps motivate her team, she’s amazing,” Albert said of Shields. “I’d put her up against any other catcher in the state.”

Shields recorded five putouts and an assist from behind the plate.

“She’s a good kid, No. 1 catcher for sure,” Martin said about the Bucks’ backstop. “She’s aggressive and when she’s at the plate, the pitcher has to be on her toes.”

That was evident in the seventh, when Shields hit a line drive past the left fielder that rolled under the fence and later came around to score on an RBI double by Ridlon to extend the Bucks’ lead to 6-2.

“The top of the order gets it done and today was no different,” Albert said. “Our kids came to play today, it was good softball.”

Richmond did not score again, stranding three runners over the final two innings, leaving a total of nine over seven.

“We were right on the ball a little too early too much,” Martin said. “We didn’t get that solid hit we needed.”

“They always bring good competition. I’m kind of glad we’ve got to play them three times as it helps us get prepared to play the best teams,” Kendrick added.

For Buckfield, Albert credits her seniors and an influx of underclassmen with bouncing back on Wednesday after the Valley loss.

“We’re lucky to have our seniors like Hannah, Julia (Dow) and Maggie in our lineup,” Albert said. “But we have a bunch of (underclassmen) out on the field and they stepped it up today.”

Shields agrees about the importance of the Bucks’ underclassmen.

“They bring a lot of focus too. They know what to do with the game. They listen to us, we listen to what they have to say and it works out well,” added Shields.

Bragg paced the Bucks’ offense with two hits, including a double and two runs batted in. The senior also stole a base and scored two runs. Merrill scattered seven hits on the mound. The sophomore did not walk a batter, while hitting two.

Richmond will put the loss behind them and move forward as they prepare for postseason play. And according to Martin, not all was lost on Wednesday’s performance, as he was able to see his junior pitcher throw a quality game against a good team.

“I have confidence in her as she’s around the plate. She’s right there, good changeup and good curveball,” Martin said of Lancaster, who surrendered nine hits, while striking out 10 hitters and walking four. “I’ve got to get her ready for the playoffs in case we need her (behind Kendrick). She hadn’t thrown lately so I wanted to get her out there against this team and get her confidence there.

“We’ll sharpen up a little bit and get ready for the playoffs.”

Richmond third baseman Paige Lebel, left, leaves the glove on Buckfield runner Cassidy Lowell after she was called out on a relay throw to third base during Wednesday’s East-West Conference high school softball game in Richmond. Times Record photo by Eric Maxim

Buckfield’s Hannah Shields camps out under a pop-up during Wednesday’s East-West softball game in Richmond. The Bucks beat the Bobcats, 6-2. Times Record photo by Eric Maxim

Richmond’s Caitlin Kendrick, left, reaches for the throw as Buckfield’s Cassidy Lowell safely slides into second base during a steal attempt during Wednesday’s East-West Conference high school softball game in Richmond. Times Record photo by Eric Maxim

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