MADISON — It was Madison’s 15th win of the season, and the first loss for Oak Hill since April 24. It was a great pitching matchup between Emily McKenney and Kortni Michaud, and yet it also had some offense.

But that’s probably not what people are talking about today. That’s because Madison’s 5-3 Mountain Valley Conference softball win was overshadowed by weirdness bordering on controversy.

Oak Hill batter Jamie Prue noticed in the first inning that the pitcher’s plate seemed a little bit close. Oak Hill coach Allyson Collins notified the umpires in the second inning, and the umpires allowed play to continue while someone fetched a tape measure.

After Madison scored twice in the bottom of the third to take a 2-0 lead, Madison assistant coach and athletic director Chris LeBlanc measured and found out the pitcher’s plate was 40 feet away from home plate, not 43 as required by national and Maine Principals’ Association rules.

Prue, Oak Hill’s center fielder, said she noticed something wrong on McKenney’s first pitch to her in the first inning. Prue was the second batter of the game, after Kelsey Collins grounded out to third base.

“Kelsey came back and she’s like, ‘That’s a lot quicker than it looks,’ so I was a little thrown off by that,” Prue said. “I got up there, and I remember I squared to the plate, and I was like, ‘She’s on top of me.’ Three feet is a big difference in softball, and obviously, it was very noticeable. I could tell just by how she was leaping out of the circle. It was unbelievable how close she was.”

Madison coach Al Veneziano said he had no idea how long the pitcher’s plate had been at 40 feet.

“I know they now play some Little League games and things like that here,” Veneziano said. “It certainly was not intentional. I’m glad they pointed it out.”

McKenney said she thought the 40-foot distance has been in effect in all Madison home games this season.

“I definitely told my stepdad at other away games, ‘I feel really far away when I pitch,’ ” McKenney said. “But I never thought anything of it.”

The MPA’s softball bulletin says, “Maine has no protest rule or option. If a rule interpretation or application is in question, the issue must be discussed and resolved before resumption of play.”

In its first inning with the pitcher’s plate at the correct distance, Oak Hill (10-3) scored twice to tie the game. Prue reached on a dropped pop fly, and Michaud doubled home one run and Sadie Goulet delivered an RBI single with two out.

Michaud had even more trouble adjusting to the new distance in her first inning at 43 feet. After going to only one three-ball count in the first three innings, Michaud walked the first two batters in the fourth, and both came around to score. Sam Bruce came home on a wild pitch and Savanna Kandiko got a key single that brought home a pair of runs.

Overall, Michaud threw 67 percent strikes in the first three innings, 48 percent strikes in the fourth, and 81 percent strikes in the final two innings.

“My reaction is that if the start of the game had been played correctly, then that would have been a completely different ballgame,” Coach Collins said. “We did not warm up at 40 feet. We did not hit at 40 feet. So obviously, that throws you off.”

Oak Hill had runners at second and third with two down in the fifth, but McKenney ended the inning with one of her eight strikeouts (six of which came after the distance change). The Raiders got close when Brianna Hodgkins singled in the seventh and Kelsey Collins followed with an RBI double, but that was it.

The Raiders thought the game deserved an asterisk, but Coach Collins was still impressed with the Bulldogs, and there’s a good chance the teams will meet in the MVC championship game May 31.

“Either way, Madison is an excellent team,” Coach Collins said. “Great hitting team. Great fielding team. I can take nothing away from their players.”

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243
[email protected]

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