MONMOUTH — Down to their final out, their final strike, the Madison Area Memorial High School softball team somehow found a way.

Just inches from having been retired for the game’s final out on a popup in foul territory on the previous pitch, Sydney LeBlanc singled home two runs to tie the score and Destiny Howes singled in the go-ahead run, leading the Bulldogs to a seven-run seventh inning and an improbable 8-6 win over Monmouth Academy in a matchup between the two Mountain Valley Conference leaders on Friday afternoon.

After surrendering five runs in the bottom of the sixth — four of those runs unearned — to fall into a 6-1 hole, Madison (11-0) kicked off its one-out rally with five straight singles before LeBlanc’s big blow with two outs. Howes, one of only two seniors on the Bulldogs’ roster, doubled to right-center field and extended Madison’s winning streak to 32 straight games.

“I love the high and outside pitches,” said Howes, who went 2 for 3. “I just take them to right field. If they catch it, I just try the next time to hit more of a line drive.”

It took exactly 11 minutes from the time Madison walked off the field trailing by five until they were back in front.

“We never give up. We always keep our heads up and cheer everybody on,” Howes said. “Everybody was up in the dugout cheering each other on. It was a great inning.”

Madison pulled to within 6-5 when Annie Worthen grounded out to second to score Whitney Bess and set the stage for LeBlanc. The count was even when she popped up a 2-2 pitch just a couple of feet up the third base line. Monmouth catcher Abby Ferland made a tremendous leaping play on the ball, momentarily snaring it in her mitt before her forward momentum sent her tumbling to the dirt. When the back of her glove hit the ground, the ball popped free and LeBlanc and the Bulldogs had new life.

LeBlanc entertained the idea that the game had been lost in Ferland’s mitt.

“For a second,” LeBlanc said. “But coach called a timeout right before that, so it really relaxed me. I just had to keep my head up.”

That she did, ripping a base hit back up the middle for the tying runs.

What had been a 1-1 game through five innings turned into anything but predictable over the final two frames.

“It’s actually a huge confidence builder,” said Monmouth coach Dave Kaplan, whose team dropped to 10-3. “These guys are the team to beat in this league. We had them in the seventh, but we let them get away. Now, we know we can compete with them… It’s all good. It’s all good stuff we’re taking out of today.”

The Mustangs, who tied the game in the bottom of the fifth on No. 9 batter Julia Johnson’s RBI groundout to third, put plenty of pressure on the Madison defense in the sixth. Under that pressure, the Bulldogs crumbled.

Worthen made two costly errors at shortstop, with the second of those allowing two runs to score on what could have been the final out of the inning. Haylee Langlois drove in one run, while Rhiannon Dumond’s batted ball forced two runs in for a 6-1 lead.

Madison coach Chris LeBlanc opted not to say anything to his team following the nearly-disastrous inning, instead choosing to see how his team responded.

Respond, they did.

“It was good character,” Chris LeBlanc said. “I didn’t know how we would react. In the dugout, I’m wondering what I’m going to say. At that point, I chose not to say anything and see what they did. I saw that excitement that they had (during the rally).. and it gives me confidence that if we get into situations like this as we go into the second half of the season that we’re able to believe in ourselves.”

Lauria LeBlanc, Aishah Molloy, Ashley Emery (2 for 4), Bess and Wood strung together base hits to give the Bulldogs life, and Sydney LeBlanc made sure that the game would continue on at the very least.

Howes made sure it would not, The designated player drilled Emily Chasse’s 0-1 pitch to the opposite field, allowing Wood to close things out with a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh on just nine pitches.

“That’s what I love so much about my team,” Sydney LeBlanc said. “We never hang our heads. We never quit.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

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Twitter: @TBarrettGWC