WALES — Lauria LeBlanc struck out 11, Sydney LeBlanc struck once for the game’s biggest hit and Madison did just enough against Oak Hill’s standout defense to stay undefeated with a 3-1 win in an MountainValley Conference softball clash Friday.

The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Bulldogs (14-0), who went down quietly in the top of the first against Raiders (12-3) starter Sadie Waterman. Then the Madison defense got off to a rocky start in the bottom half of

Oak Hill baserunner Mahala Smith slides safely into third as Madison third baseman Whitney Bess (4) watches center fielder Sydney LeBlanc throw the ball in during a Mountain Valley Conference game Friday in Wales. Sun Journal photo by Wil Kramlich

the frame, committing errors in the first two at-bats and adding another to help Oak Hill score its lone run.

Waterman reached on a throwing error and advanced to second. Then Mahala Smith reached on a fielding error and Waterman made it all the way home. Smith stole second and moved to third on an errant throw, but Lauria LeBlanc struck out three straight to leave Smith 60 feet away from home.

“I’m going to say we had four or five errors, so you’re not going to be able to do that moving forward,” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said. “A game where we have a couple miscues, and (Lauria) has three or four walks, that’s going to hurt us. But she was on today, and that was a good thing.”

The Raiders were great defensively, but they weren’t perfect.

A throwing error to lead off the top of the third put Marah Hall on. Waterman’s lone walk then put Katie Worthen on. An Emily Edgerly sacrifice bunt moved the runners up a base, setting up Hall to score on Ashley Emery’s single that glanced off Waterman’s glove. Whitney Bess flied out for the would-have-been third out, but Sydney LeBlanc took advantage of the extra out by looping a triple into right to score two runs.

“It was that one hit,” Oak Hill coach Allyson Collins said. “So it’s that one pitch, that one hit, that we missed.”

“I thought Syd did a great job,” LeBlanc said. “They were playing her in a little bit, and she was able to make contact, and it carried a little bit.”

Madison pitcher Lauria LeBlanc tracks her delivery during a Mountain Valley Conference game against Oak Hill on Friday in Wales. Sun Journal photo by Wil Kramlich

Lauria LeBlanc issued her only walk with two outs in the bottom half of the third. Smith reached by letting a 3-2 pitch go, then she stole second before Kiera Young hit an infield single to put runners at the corners. LeBlanc and the Bulldogs got out of the jam with a standout defensive play of their own — a foul pop that first baseman Aishah Malloy caught while falling in front of the Oak Hill dugout. Worthen had started off the inning with a diving catch in right.

The Raiders defense was at its best after that, especially Young, who made several plays at shortstop.

“They made great plays defensively on their side of the ball. We hit the ball a couple of times decent and they made good plays,” Chris LeBlanc said. “Their shortstop did a great job today. Second baseman (Julia Ahlberg) made a play, but the shortstop was very good. I think (she) took away a couple of hits.”

Waterman allowed just two hits over the final four innings, but her defense neutralized them right away. Worthen led off the fifth with a single, but was forced out at second when Young made a diving stop on Edgerly’s grounder before flipping to Ahlberg. Malloy opened the seventh with another hit, but Ahlberg tagged her out on Lauria LeBlanc’s grounder before firing to first for a double play.

“Our defense was the best we’ve played all season, hands down,” Collins said. “I could not have asked for anything else from them. If I could have scripted it, I couldn’t have asked for a better (game) from them.”

Unfortunately for the Raiders, LeBlanc kept them down at the plate. And according to Collins, she did it by pitching up.

“She has a lot of movement, she keeps the ball up in the zone, which that’s tough to hit,” Collins said.

LeBlanc used her strikeout ability to get out of jams in the fourth and sixth. Ahlberg doubled with one out in the fourth, but a strikeout kept the Raiders from using their running game on the base paths. Consecutive two-out singles by Molly Flaherty and Ahlberg in the sixth looked promising, but LeBlanc picked up her 10th strikeout to end the inning.

Oak Hill couldn’t take advantage of two runners on with just one out in the seventh, with a fielder’s choice taking out the lead runner for the second out and Sydney LeBlanc caught Young’s fly to center for the final out.

“We were one hit away, they got that one hit,” Collins said. “I wish that our bats would have come alive a little bit sooner, and I think if they had then maybe the game would have been different.”

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