Oak Hill’s Miranda Kramer can’t get a hold of the ball as Madison base runner Landyn Landry slides into third base during a Mountain Valley Conference softball game Monday in Wales. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

WALES — For another day at least, the Madison softball team remains the cream of the Mountain Valley Conference crop.

Backed by a two-headed pitching monster and the defense behind it, the defending Class C state champion Bulldogs converted their few scoring opportunities into runs on Monday and handed Oak Hill a 3-0 loss in a matchup of unbeaten teams. Madison improved to 10-0, while Oak Hill — held to fewer than 10 runs for just the second time this season – fell to 7-1.

Junior Lauria LeBlanc threw four scoreless innings to begin things for the Bulldogs, while freshman Brooke McKenney came on in the fifth and held the Raiders off the board for the final nine outs.

“We knew that we needed to get all the runs we can get,” LeBlanc said. “It all comes down to when we start to believe in ourselves. That’s when we start digging in deep and hitting the ball.”

Junior center fielder Emily Edgerly added an insurance run in the seventh with her home run to straightaway center field. McKenney went 2 for 4 on the day, while LeBlanc and Jerzey Tewksbury — out of the bottom third of the Madison order — each drove in single runs in the win.

The Raiders’ bats were as cold as the steady spring wind. Oak Hill mustered only four hits in the shutout loss, despite entering the day having scored 15 or more runs five times already this season while averaging 15.2 runs per game in seven wins.

“We hadn’t had the opportunity to face some pitching that we needed to in order to prepare for (Madison),” Oak Hill coach Allyson Collins said. “That was something I was worried about coming in. I wanted to face some pitching that was comparable, and we haven’t been able to do that yet. I knew that was going to be a challenge and, in fact, it was.”

Oak Hill’s Adelle Surette tries to make a play at short during a Mountain Valley Conference softball game against Madison on Monday in Wales. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

The game turned in the fourth inning, a frame which provided a microcosm of the contest as a whole.

Madison led off the inning with catcher Katie Worthen reaching on an error, and after a pair of Bulldog base hits to load the bases, she eventually scored the game’s first run on Tewksbury’s fielder’s choice.

In the home half of the inning, Sadie Waterman likewise led off for Oak Hill by reaching on a fielding error, and she went to second when LeBlanc followed that by walking Abby Nadeau. But unlike the Bulldogs, the Raiders were unable to turn that good fortune into any runs — even after left fielder Miranda Kramer fouled off eight two-strike pitches before grounding out to second.

“Things just wouldn’t go our way today,” Collins said. “Every chance I thought we’d get them across, we just could not get them there. Things just would not go our way.”

Madison added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings as insurance for McKenney. LeBlanc’s fielder’s choice to shortstop scored McKenney, and Edgerly homered with two outs an inning later off Oak Hill reliever Molly Flaherty.

“Coming into it, I knew we needed to just get the bat on the ball and make them work and make them play,” said Edgerly, who was 0 for 3 in her previous trips to the plate, including two strikeouts. “Yeah, I was definitely struggling some, but I just had to believe. It’s the complete confidence from my team I was getting the whole game that definitely helped.”

Oak Hill batter Emily Ahlberg gets a bunt down during a Mountain Valley Conference softball game against Madison on Monday in Wales. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

The 3-0 lead was more than enough for McKenney to work with. The freshman faltered briefly to begin her outing in the fifth by surrendering a leadoff single to Mikayla Buckmore — Oak Hill’s No. 8 hitter — but Buckmore was erased when she was caught attempting to steal second, and McKenney slammed the door on the Raiders’ hopes with two of her five strikeouts. The only other baserunner she allowed in her three innings of work was a two-out single to Nadeau in the sixth.

The 7-8-9 spots in the Oak Hill lineup went down in order in the seventh on just 11 pitches.

“This is the first game we’ve had that was close that I made the pitching decision (to bring McKenney on in relief),” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said. “When you have Lauria Leblanc who has not lost a game in her high school career, but she’s Brooke McKenney’s biggest fan when she comes out of the game, that’s kudos to her.”

“I want to do whatever is best for the team so we can get the ‘W,'” Lauria LeBlanc said. “(McKenney) has more than two pitches, and she has an awesome curveball that really works for her. I really believe in her.”

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