STANDISH — There is a youth movement within the Madison softball program, and fortunately for the Bulldogs that future is arriving now.

Three sophomores have played integral roles for Madison which — after beating Sacopee Valley 15-7 in the Class C South title game Tuesday night at Bailey Field on the campus of St. Joseph’s College — will try to win a third state championship in the last five years Saturday afternoon against North champion Narraguagus. Pitcher Lauria LeBlanc might be the most noticeable of the underclassmen, but outfielders Katie Worthen and Emily Edgerly have provided the bottom of the Bulldogs’ lineup a much-needed boost.

LeBlanc is now unbeaten in her first three career playoff starts including Tuesday night.

“The thing about all three of those sophomores is that they played last year, so now they know what it’s like,” Madison head coach Chris LeBlanc said. “If they were coming in (cold) as sophomores, I’m not sure we’d be here.”

Prior to Madison (19-0) opening its regular season at Hall-Dale in April, the Bulldogs embarked on a preseason trip to Florida. Chris LeBlanc told a story of the team’s new ace letting emotions get the best of her when she didn’t like the strike zone she was getting. Fast-forward to the Class C South title game, with her defense falling apart around her as Sacopee put together a four-run rally in the fifth inning to pull within a run of the lead at the time, and Lauria LeBlanc remained a picture of composure.

“I’ve just learned to go to the back of the circle, take a bunch of deep breaths and say, ‘It’s OK. We’ll get it back.’ I just try to breathe through it,” Lauria LeBlanc said. “There were many times tonight I was worried, but I knew we could pull it off.”

Not only did Lauria have to learn to negotiate the peaks and valleys within a game, she also began to rely on the seniors and their experience.

“The seniors give us a lot of support,” she said. “I think we need to be strong (as sophomores). We’re one of them now. You just have to keep your head up.”

Others feel like they’ve grown into the program, too. Like Worthen, whose older sister Annie Worthen is the Bulldogs’ starting shortstop and cleanup hitter. The Worthens represent two sets of starting sisters for Madison — Sydney and Lauria LeBlanc are the others.

“Where they had last year and were a part of that (regional championship team), they know what to expect,” Chris LeBlanc said of the sophomore class. “When they weren’t playing, they were here. They were the little kids on the sidelines rooting on their sisters and waiting for their opportunity.

“Now it’s their opportunity.”

“Last year, I was on varsity but I didn’t play a lot,” Katie Worthen said. “From the beginning of the year, when I started starting more games, I felt a lot better about myself. Things have been going our way,”

Edgerly, who made a midseason switch from right field to left field to try and relieve some pressure on her defensive game, went 1 for 2 with four RBIs and a run scored out of the nine-hole in the Madison lineup against the Hawks. Her bases-loaded triple in the sixth blew the game wide open and all but sealed the Bulldogs’ fifth state championship appearance in the last six years.

The younger Worthen, too, has made an impact. She’s scored five runs in three playoff games, had three hits and joined Edgerly as a pair of unlikely table setters out of the bottom two spots in the order. Worthen walked twice and scored twice Tuesday night.

“I struggled early in the year a lot with getting contact on the ball,” said Worthen, who was 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles in a regional semifinal win over Winthrop. “As the year continued, I’ve gotten a lot better and my hitting has been working for me. Confidence helps a lot.”

That confidence, from the sophomore class in particular, has Madison on the cusp of another state championship.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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