FARMINGDALE — So different is this year’s Madison softball team that head coach Chris LeBlanc spent most of Monday night sitting at his kitchen table, scribbling out potential lineups on paper towels. Until Tuesday’s first pitch shortly after 4 p.m., he still wasn’t certain he’d settled on a permanent lineup, one which featured a total of seven new starters after last year’s Bulldogs rolled to an undefeated season and the Class C state championship.

But even with an overhauled infield and a new batting order, one constant remained in the middle of the diamond for Madison. Junior pitcher Lauria LeBlanc battled cold and rust to allow just three hits across six innings of work as Madison rolled to an 8-1 Mountain Valley Conference win over Hall-Dale. Newcomers Emily Blauvelt and Jersey Tewskbury delivered the day’s biggest blows, with Blauvelt’s two-run double in the first inning giving LeBlanc all the run support she would need.

“She’s just able to grit it through,” Chris LeBlanc said of his pitcher. “I don’t know if she has a spin or this or that, but she’s able to win games.”

Hall-Dale (1-1) was within a key hit or two of rewriting the script in the fifth inning, when leadoff hitter Iris Ireland lined a two-out triple to right to make it a 3-1 game. But LeBlanc got out of the inning just a few pitches later, setting the stage for a five-run Madison sixth that put things out of reach. Third baseman Tewskbury polished things off with a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double to right-center field.

Hall-Dale’s Grace Begin tags Madison’s Emily Edgerly at first base during a Mountain Valley Conference game Tuesday in Farmingdale. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

It spoiled an otherwise gutsy performance from Hall-Dale sophomore Sarah Benner, who despite issuing seven walks and putting the leadoff hitter on base in every inning — including via the base on balls in each of the first five frames — found ways to work out of trouble and keep things close.

“She knew it. She was a little frustrated with the walks,” Hall-Dale coach Steve Acedo said. “She came from shortstop last year when we needed a pitcher, and we know she’s got some growing to do. But she’s the one person I’m not worried about. She stays focused, and I thought she threw the ball well.”

Only the top three spots in the Hall-Dale order produced hits, with Benner and Alisa Bonenfant each poking singles. LeBlanc finished with eight strikeouts in her six innings, while freshman Brooke McKenney tossed a perfect seventh in relief by striking out the side. LeBlanc stranded a one-out runner at second in the fourth and another at third with two outs in the fifth. In the sixth, she closed out her outing with back-to-back strikeouts to work around a leadoff walk.

“The weather definitely had an impact, but it was pretty good for our first game,” Lauria LeBlanc said. “I feel like there’s a little bit more pressure on me, but not much. I really trust my teammates out there.”

“The one thing I wasn’t worried about coming into this game was our hitting. We always put the bat on the ball,” Acedo said. “We only had three hits and we walked four times, but the 11 strikeouts really hurt.”

By contrast, six different Madison players collected hits. Katie Worthen, a former outfielder turned catcher this season, went 2 for 4 out of the cleanup spot.

Hall-Dale’s Sarah Benner gets tagged at third by Madison’s Jersey Tewksbury during a Mountain Valley Conference game Tuesday in Farmingdale. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

LeBlanc and Landyn Landry, a freshman shortstop, each drove in runs.

“I didn’t know until (Monday) on my paper towels at home who would be where,” Chris LeBlanc said. “I had several different lineups with every single scenario going. We’ve got two or three people that we’re looking at (in key spots), it could be different tomorrow.”

Madison had opportunities in the early innings to extend a two-run lead but the Bulldogs had one runner cut down at home plate trying to score in the second and two others gunned down at third trying to advance on fielder’s choices in the third and fourth innings.

“We’re leaving too many people on base and we had some running miscues, and in big games that’s going to come back to bite you,” Chris LeBlanc said. “But it’s the first day and we did enough to win, so I’m happy.”

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