MONMOUTH — All Western C softball contenders will judge themselves in part by how they fare against Madison. Monmouth came away pretty well from judgment day on Friday afternoon, but also got a reminder that Madison is pretty tough.
“They can hit 1 through 11,” Monmouth coach Dave Kaplan said. “They brought 11 kids, and they can all hit.”
Madison scored five runs in the top of the first inning and, while Monmouth bounced back from that as well as could be expected, the Bulldogs still went on to bang out 12 hits in a 12-3 victory.
Monmouth entered the game having won six of its last seven, including two wins against fellow contender Winthrop. Madison (10-0) used a combination of singles, stolen bases and wild pitches to put Monmouth in a 5-0 hole. Cristie Vicneire and No. 9 batter Madeline Wood each had two-run singles in the inning.
But Monmouth third baseman Kylie Kemp made a diving stop to end the top of the second inning and a rally, and the Mustangs (6-3) rebounded with three runs in the bottom of the second. Krystin Kemp led off with a double, Corrie Meehan beat out a bunt single, Kylie Kemp delivered an RBI single, Caroline Bonenfant worked an eight-pitch walk, and two more runs scored on a two-out error, trimming Madison’s lead to 5-3.
Madison had outscored its opponents 125-9 before Friday, so the Bulldogs are not used to a 5-3 score. Pitcher Emily McKenney actually threw on the side while Madison was batting in the top of the third, and did not allow a hit the rest of the way.
“After that inning, she just wanted to take a couple of extra pitches,” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said. “It’s all about a routine, and I think she had plenty of time to warm up, but she just didn’t feel comfortable. As much work as she’s put in, she realizes that, and went out and got a few extra pitches.”
McKenney finished with a three-hitter and nine strikeouts, but Monmouth still hit her as well as anyone has this spring.
“She’s been striking out 13 or 14,” Kaplan said. “The approach at the plate has gotten better for us. We’ve been working very hard on pitch selection, situational hitting, etc.”
In the top of the third, the Bulldogs did the two things great teams in any sport always seem to do: Get breaks, and then take advantage of them. With one out and the bases empty, Erin Whalen reached first on a bad-hop single that leaped at Monmouth second baseman Shannon Buzzell’s neck at the last instant. Wood, a freshman, fell behind in the count 1-2, but kept battling and walked on the ninth pitch.
“I was definitely shaking,” Wood said. “But I knew that I just had to stay disciplined, and make her throw, because you know that they’ll (throw a ball) eventually.”
Kirsten Wood was up next, and she laced a two-run triple, putting Madison back in control at 7-3.
“It allows us to do what we need to do: Come back,” LeBlanc said. “I like the fact that we were able to do that tonight after giving up some runs.”
Madeline Wood later scored by beating out an infield single, stealing second, and coming home on two groundouts. Madison scratched out four more runs in the final two innings. While losing by nine runs isn’t the optimum result for anyone, Monmouth is still a team with a new coach and seven freshmen after finishing 7-8 last season.
“The start of the year, I wouldn’t have believed that we were going to be where we are,” Kaplan said. “Six and 3, and we’re sitting in the middle of the Heal points in good position. I’m a happy guy.”