MADISON — With a handful of key moments in the Madison softball team’s 6-5 Class C South semifinal win over Lisbon on Saturday afternoon, where does one begin?

Let’s start at the end, with the final play of the game that saw Lisbon’s last-chance rally swatted down in seconds.

With one on and one out in the top of the seventh inning, Lisbon’s Ali Sult hit a line drive that looked destined to left field, until Madison third baseman Whitney Bess took two quick steps to her left and extended her left arm as far as she could to make the catch. Bess then made an easy throw to first base, doubling off Giana Russo to end the game and send the Bulldogs back to the regional championship game.

“I had just said to these guys, we’re going to need a big play,” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said. “And then, it happens.”

The top-seeded and defending Class C state champion Bulldogs (17-1) will take on No. 2 Winthrop (13-5) in the regional final Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s College. No. 5 Lisbon ends the season at 11-7.

Bess said she just reacted to make the game-saving and game-ending catch.

“I love third base because I don’t have time to think. I usually get in my head a lot, so I like not being able to think about it and just go for it,” Bess, a junior who has played third base since her freshman season, said.

“She’s fundamentally sound. She understands the game. She did it offensively today and defensively,” LeBlanc added.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Bess led off with an infield single and scored on Sydney LeBlanc’s single to give the Bulldogs a 6-5 lead. The run capped Madison’s rally from an early three-run deficit.

“Honestly, I was just thinking, ‘don’t screw up. Don’t hit a pop fly. Hit it on the ground like coach says.’ I’ve been on and off all season, and today it happened to work,” Bess said of her sixth inning at-bat.

After two quick outs in the top of the third, Lisbon rallied to take a 4-1 lead. After back-to-back singles by Carly Drischler and Mallory Fairbanks, Russo reached on an error to extend the inning. Sult’s two-run single gave the Greyhounds the lead, 2-1, and Jasmin Le’s RBI single made it 3-1. Another Madison error gave Lisbon a three-run cushion. When the inning was over, LeBlanc didn’t say anything to his team.

“At that point, I didn’t really feel like I could say anything. They know. If we’re not making mistakes and (the Greyhounds) pound the ball, we’re OK,” LeBlanc said. “I just had to give them their space, and know they would rebound. We’re going to hit the ball. We were fortunate. Very fortunate.”

The Bulldogs got two runs back in the bottom of the inning. After hitting a one-out double, Madeline Wood scored on Annie Worthen’s single to center field. A missed cutoff throw and a throwing error allowed Worthen to come all the way around and score on the play.

“In a game this far into playoffs, you have to be fundamentally sound. You have to hit your cuts, do things textbook. Offensively, we did a great job. We hit the ball. We hit the ball well, we were aggressive on the base paths,” Lisbon coach Terri Tlumac said. “They’re going to hit the ball. Madison hits the ball. The girls know this. It’s just an unfortunate turn of events, and they came out on top.”

The Greyhounds got a run back in the top of the fourth inning. Brittany Norman singled, and went to third base on Drischler’s double. Norman scored on a Fairbanks groundout to third, giving Lisbon a 5-3 lead.

Madison rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth on Marah Hall’s two-out, two-run double to center field. Hall had made the error that extended the third inning for Lisbon. In the fourth, Hall came from second base to make a nice catch on a soft pop fly in shallow center. With her game-tying hit, Hall’s miscue was a fading memory.

“We have such high expectations for our people, that when they make mistakes sometimes I forget that they’re kids and mistakes are going to happen,” LeBlanc said. “(Hall) saves a base hit and then comes up and pounds the ball. She’s always smiling. I know that (the error) bothers her, but she’s got good composure.”

The Bulldogs didn’t need a pep talk when they fell behind, Bess said. The game was reminiscent of one in the regular season, when Madison rallied from a 6-1 deficit to win at Monmouth.

“We don’t really talk, which is kind of different for a team. At Monmouth, when we made our huge comeback, coach didn’t really talk to us. We know that’s when we need to focus,” Bess said.

Wood struck out seven to earn the win. Sult had three hits for Lisbon.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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Twitter: @TLazarczykMTM