MADISON — It didn’t matter if a Waterville player got on base. The way Madison’s Brooke McKenney pitched when a Purple Panther was on, second base was as close to home plate as the moon.

In Monday’s non-conference softball game, McKenney faced 10 hitters with a runner on base. She struck out nine of them, and Madison took a 3-0 win.

“I try not to think about it too much,” said McKenney, a junior, of pitching with runners on base. “I try to focus on each pitch at a time, and I think that really helps.”

Gillian Poulin was the lone Waterville (6-4) hitter to make contact off McKenney when a teammate was on base. Poulin grounded to shortstop for a forceout for the first out in the top of the seventh inning. McKenney then recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the game and finish with 15 Ks.

“She’s the real deal. She does a nice job. She’s part of the reason we’re where we at. We know we’re going to get a good performance and not give up many runs,” Madison (10-1) coach Chris LeBlanc said of McKenney.

Before the game, McKenney got a pep talk from her sister, Emily McKenney, a pitcher on Madison’s 2014 Class C state championship team.

Madison’s Brooke McKenney gets ready to pitch to a Waterville hitter during softball action Monday in Madison. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“She was pretty good in the circle. She just told me to do my thing, and focus on every pitch, especially with runners on. Focus on my mechanics and the fundamentals. Focus on the batter,” McKenney said.

Waterville’s Savanna Cormier doubled with two out in the top of the first, but McKenney got a strikeout on a failed bunt attempt with two strikes to get out of the inning. Cormier walked with one out in the fourth, but back-to-back McKenney strikeouts kept a the scoring threat from ever emerging. Poulin led off the top of the fifth for the Panthers with a single and swiped second base, but McKenney struck out the side.

“She threw hard, but you’ve got to get runners on base. When she got girls on base, she definitely threw harder. I think she did bear down, but i think we helped her, too. I think we chased some pitches. A little lack of discipline hurt us, and not being able to get bunts down,” Waterville coach Tom Toner said.

Madison’s Lillian Levesque squares to bunt the ball against Waterville on Monday in Madison. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Raylee Gilbert doubled with one out in the top of the sixth. This time, LeBlanc intentionally walked Cormier. McKenney got a strikeout for the second out, and Gilbert was thrown out trying to steal third to end the inning.

When the 2020 season was canceled in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, McKenney continued to work on her pitching. She said she has no go-to pitch when she needs or wants to get a strikeout. Typically, her go-to pitch is “whatever my catcher tells me to do.” On Monday, it was her fastball.

“Definitely my fastball was my favorite today. I’ve got to hit my spots I’m supposed to be hitting,” McKenney said. “I keep my game face on. I focus on myself, and I know my teammates have my back behind me.”

Gilbert, Waterville’s pitcher, was also impressive, allowing just one hit, a single by Hailey Parquet to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Madison scored a run in the first inning when leadoff hitter Landyn Landry reached on an error and scored on a sacrifice fly to right from Arabel Linkletter. Landry scored another run in the fifth on a ground out to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. In the sixth, Madison added another run, this time when Parquet scored on a wild pitch.

Gilbert struck out 10 and walked two.

Including the intentional walk to Cormier in the sixth, McKenney walked two. Waterville never had a runner reach third base.

“She knows that we’re relying on her and she’s got to get that little extra. She’s well over 100 strikeouts and we’re what, 11 games into it?” LeBlanc said.

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