MADISON — Chris LeBlanc, the softball coach at Madison Area Memorial High School, believes that you need to get good bunts against good teams to win. The Bulldogs play that way even at the younger age levels, and in preparation for Thursday afternoon’s big game with Hall-Dale, LeBlanc even brought back Emily McKenney, who graduated last year and pitched Madison to the state title.

“We needed to make sure that we got runners on any way that we could,” LeBlanc said. “We practiced it yesterday. We were fortunate enough to have Emily come in and do some batting practice for us. We felt we needed to execute it, and I thought we did a pretty good job of it.”

Indeed, it’s accurate to say that Madison ticky-tacked Hall-Dale to death. The hosts hit only five balls out of the infield, but still scored nine runs. The result was a 9-5 victory over Hall-Dale that keeps Madison in first place in the Western C Heal points.

“They put some good bunts down. They’ve got some quick kids out of the box,” Hall-Dale coach Steve Acedo said. “(Some) would have been close plays, but we just didn’t make the throws. We threw, what, three over our first baseman and two in the dirt, I think it was? They took advantage of our mistakes.”

Hall-Dale (7-2) has defended the bunt well in other games this season, but the short game was its downfall on Thursday. Madison’s first inning went bunt, bunt, groundout, bunt, infield single, groundout. Nothing out of the infield, but a 2-0 lead. In the third, Erin Whalen singled and stole second, then scored when she took third on a groundout and Hall-Dale threw the ball away.

“That’s what we talked about: Put the ball in play, whether it’s a bunt, or it’s hard on the ground,” LeBlanc said. “We tell them that we’re going to play some teams that aren’t going to catch some pop flies, but good teams are going to catch the ball. When we bunt, we want to be able to bunt 1 through 9 (in the lineup).”

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In the fourth inning, Hall-Dale caught Madison throwing the ball around a little bit, and the visitors also finally got their bats going. Becca Ackerson singled, Olivia Maynard doubled her home, and Morgan Rush and Gabby Brown each got RBI singles to tie the score at 3.

Hall-Dale’s momentum didn’t last long, as Madison came back with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Two of the runs scored on errors, and the third came home on an illegal pitch. Madison made it 9-3 with three runs in the sixth, with the key hit a two-run pinch-hit single by Destiny Howes. In all, Madison’s nine runs were scored by eight different players.

“That’s what we’re most proud about,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve got some young players. As I’ve said all along, they don’t have a lot of varsity experience because (they’re) freshmen, but they have softball experience, and we’ve been doing this all along, and that’s our expectations. I’m very pleased with them.”

Rush and Brown each drove in another run in the sixth for Hall-Dale, but Madison pitcher Madeline Wood ended things in the seventh with the help of her defense. With two out and two on, Maynard drove one to right field. Madison’s Tori McLaughlin spun around while tracking the ball, and finally made the catch in deep right field while facing the fence. If that ball had dropped in, Hall-Dale would have been within 9-7 and had the tying run at the plate.

“When the momentum’s in the other team’s favor, you make those catches,” Acedo said. “If it’s the other way around, that ball drops. She made a good catch. But we have another good hitter up after that (Rush, who had two RBIs on the day) who’s got some home run power. Another base hit puts us within one. We didn’t give up — that’s the biggest thing.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]

Twitter: @Matt_DiFilippo


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