FARMINGDALE — The Madison softball team may feature a new pitcher, some new wrinkles defensively and a few more options off the bench with an athletic roster, but one thing remains the same for the Bulldogs.

It all starts at the top.

The top four spots in the Madison lineup went a combined 10 for 14 with nine runs scored and 10 more driven in, and the Bulldogs opened defense of their second straight regional title with a 12-5 Mountain Valley Conference win over Hall-Dale on Monday. Senior leadoff hitter Ashley Emery had a pair of hits, including a double, with four stolen bases and four runs scored, while senior center fielder Sydney LeBlanc went 4 for 5 with four RBIs from the No. 3 spot in Madison’s season opener.

Senior shortstop and cleanup hitter Annie Worthen capped the top-heavy production with a 2 for 4 day featuring three RBIs.

“That’s what’s expected out of all those guys, because they’re all seniors and they’ve been here,” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said. “As I’ve told them, they’ve just got to make the most of their opportunities.”

Senior shortstop Jill Whynot went 2 for 4 for Hall-Dale (1-1), with three RBIs, including a two-run single down the left field line in a three-run third inning.

“This was a good way to start the season,” said Madison’s senior third baseman Whitney Bess, who was 2 for 2 out of the two-spot in the Bulldogs’ order. “Judging from the articles that we’ve read, a lot of teams think that they can play with us, and I want to prove that they can’t.”

TURNING POINT: After Hall-Dale scored three times in the third to tie the game at 3-3, Madison responded with a six spot in the top of the fourth.

Aishah Malloy reached on an error by Whynot to touch off an 11-batter frame for Madison that included a couple of infield hits and a pair of two-run singles from Emery and Sydney LeBlanc.

“I think it was just everybody telling themselves to get up. We weren’t playing our game (over the first two innings),” Emery said of a slow offensive start. “I know that I had some nerves.”

Madison tacked on two more in the fifth to build its largest lead of the afternoon, 11-3.

TOUGH LOSS: Hall-Dale coach Steve Acedo has been preaching to his team about the need to be more mentally tough. He felt like Madison’s big third inning came from his team’s inability to rebound from a couple of mistakes.

“They’ve got all kinds of potential, but sometimes they make that one mistake and get in their heads,” Acedo said of his squad. “We’ve got a solid defensive team, but it’s a young team. If they can just get over that hump…”

Junior Kailey Roberts did a good job of limiting damage in her five innings of work, aside from the big third, allowing only one run in the first after issuing a pair of walks to open the game. Freshman Sarah Benner retired the first five she faced in two innings of relief, including four via the strikeout.

“She started in right field today and she’s my normal shortstop, too,” Acedo said. “She’s pretty versatile.”

DEBUT: Sophomore Lauria LeBlanc hurled six innings for Madison, allowing just a single earned run while striking out seven.

“I think she just makes sure she always hits every location that I call, and she’s really good at hitting the outside (corner),” Emery said.

Before yielding the circle to Bess for the seventh, LeBlanc retired the final nine Hall-Dale batters she faced.

“That was a big key,” Chris LeBlanc said. “The last two years we had Madeline Wood, and I hate to keep bringing it up, but she was mentally tough. That’s what we’ve been preaching to Lauria… We’ve told her that if she works ahead in the count, you can do a few more things. She was able to do that today.”

UP NEXT: MVC heavyweight Monmouth Academy is up next for both Madison and Hall-Dale. Madison hosts the Mustangs on Wednesday, while Hall-Dale hits the road to face Monmouth on Friday.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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