STANDISH — The scene at Richard W. Bailey Field was just what the Madison softball players had pictured. They posed with their trophy as a gaggle of parents took pictures to preserve the moment.
It was where people expected top-ranked Madison to be Thursday night and the Bulldogs made it happen by simply playing their game. Emily McKenney pitched well again and Madison had 16 hits in a 10-3 victory over No. 2 Dirigo in the Western C final.
“I think we really believed in ourselves more this year,” said McKenney, who threw a complete game for the win and went 3 for 4 at the plate. “I think we had it last year, but I think we just believed more this year. We just all knew that we had a shot and we wanted to put everything out there and just do the best we could.”
Madison (19-0) plays Eastern C champion Bucksport for the state title Saturday.
“Bucksport has a very good pitcher, so we’ve got to get up and hit the ball,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “We’ve got to play our game and make sure that we don’t give them big innings and we limit their time at the plate.”
Madison beat Dirigo 2-1 in Dixfield during the regular season and the Cougars put McKenney to work in the early going. Dirigo fouled off 12 two-strike pitches in the first three innings and McKenney threw 70 pitches to get the first nine outs. She fought through that by getting first-pitch strikes and finished with eight strike outs.
“It was definitely frustrating,” McKenney said. “Nobody wants to throw 70 pitches in three innings. It’s very tiring. I knew I had to just keep throwing strikes so my defense could help me out. Dirigo has really good hitters and I wasn’t going to take that away from them. I wasn’t going to strike them all out.”
Dirigo’s Natalie Bolduc got the Cougars started in the top of the first when she doubled down the left-field line and went to third on a throwing error. Emma Lueders worked a nine-pitch at bat before hitting a ground ball, and Bolduc beat the throw to the plate.
Madison began showing what was to come in the bottom of the second inning. With two out, Cristie Vicneire reached on an infield single. That triggered a rally, as the next three Madison batters also hit safely. Kayla Booker doubled Vicneire home when Dirigo right fielder Gretchen Bradbury barely missed a diving catch. After Savanna Kandiko’s single scored Booker and Kirsten Wood singled, Bradbury made a fabulous backhand catch to rob Sierra LeBlanc of at least a double and end the inning.
“After that one hit, it just sparked us all up,” said Madison senior right fielder Erika Parker, who went 2 for 4 with a triple. “We wanted to win this game. We wanted everything.”
Dirigo tied the score in the third, but the Cougars cost themselves at least one run with baserunning errors. Madison made those mistakes a moot point in the bottom of the fourth, scoring seven runs on six hits to open up a 9-2 lead. LeBlanc and Sam Bruce each had two-run singles, and by the time the inning was over, every Madison starter had at least one hit.
“We wanted to stay off the high pitch, and not swing at strikes that weren’t strikes,” Veneziano said. “I thought they did a very good job of that early on. We put the bat on the ball, and we ran the bases very well.”
Dirigo’s last, and best, highlight was in the top of the fifth. Natasha DeRoche was on third and tried to score on a wild pitch. Madison catcher Aly LeBlanc had the ball and was waiting for DeRoche, so DeRoche simply hurdled LeBlanc, then dove back to touch the plate with her hand.
The Dirigo fans roared, but the rest of the cheering belonged to Madison. Aly LeBlanc, a freshman, drove in the Bulldogs’ final run with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, but this win probably belonged to Madison’s seniors.
“We just wanted it a lot more this year,” Parker said. “Everyone wanted it equally. We had a lot of freshmen coming up who wanted it, and our seniors, we didn’t want to leave without getting some hardware.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243