Friday, March 7, 2014
BY MATT DIFILIPPO
Madison has lived up to its preseason status as one of the top softball teams in Western C. In a showdown Wednesday afternoon, the Bulldogs knocked off Dirigo, 2-1, and improved to 6-0.
WEEKLY HONOR ROLL
• Ali LeClair has a home run, two doubles, and a single to lead Winslow past Maine Central Institute.
• Madison’s Emily McKenney had two hits and pitched a two-hit shutout to defeat Mtn. Valley.
• MCI’s Courtney Fowler tripled, singled, and had four putouts in center field in a loss to Gardiner.
• Courtney Veilleux went 5 for 5 as Messalonskee defeated Mt. Blue.
• Skowhegan’s Shelby Obert scored four runs in a victory over Lawrence.
• Erskine’s Emma Robertson started a triple play in a 10-0 win over Brunswick.
• Jessica Pare had two doubles, including the game-winner in the top of the seventh, as Winslow edged Maranacook.
"We got good pitching," Madison coach Al Veneziano said. "We got hitting when we needed it. We played well in the field and didn't allow any extra outs."
Madison has outscored its opponents, 77-5, in six games. The Bulldogs have also committed only six errors this season. Emily McKenney is pitching well and has a .538 batting average with seven RBIs. Erika Parker is hitting .643, while Cristie Vicneire is at .400 with nine RBIs and freshman Aly LeBlanc is hitting .333 and has driven in 10 runs.
The Bulldogs have few easy games left on their schedule. Among their opponents the rest of the way are Hall-Dale, Oak Hill, Telstar, Winthrop and Spruce Mountain. All five of those teams have winning records and appear bound for the playoffs.
To keep everyone sharp, Veneziano is designing practices that go beyond the customary batting practice and fielding drills.
"We're very business-like on our days off," he said. "We pick something out from the game that we think we need to improve on, and maybe later on, will be key in a big game."
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Winslow has a unique system this year. With five seniors -- Morgan Clark, Ali LeClair, Jessica Pare, Jen Poulin and Megan Richards -- the Black Raiders have a rotating system of two captains per game.
"Every practice, they're all expected to be leaders," Winslow coach Steve Bodge said.
Bodge is in his first year coaching the Raiders and one thing that has struck him is the team's camaraderie.
"From seniors on down through freshmen, it's amazing how good they get along," Bodge said. "That doesn't happen (everywhere). If you didn't know the kids, you wouldn't know whether it was a senior talking to a freshman or a sophomore talking to a junior."
One example of this comes with Winslow's junior varsity game today at Skowhegan. The Raiders have only 16 players in their program, so they don't have a strictly JV roster or even a regular JV schedule. The JV team is the 11 players who aren't seniors, but the five seniors will go to the game, take part in warm-ups, then cheer their teammates on from the dugout during the game.
The Winslow varsity is 5-2, with close losses to Nokomis and undefeated Gardiner.
"The kids are starting to build some confidence and they're feeling pretty good," Bodge said. "We haven't played our best game yet, but we're headed for that."
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Lawrence did not give a good showing Monday in a 14-1 loss to Skowhegan. The Bulldogs then turned around and nearly pulled off the upset of the season, losing 7-2 to Bangor at home in eight innings.
"Sarah Martin pitched probably the best game I've seen her pitch in four years," Lawrence coach Joey Marcoux said. "We were locked in mentally. We hit the ball timely. We did little things right."
Lawrence fell behind 1-0 and 2-1 against Bangor. The Bulldogs tied the score in the bottom of the seventh and had a good chance to win.
"We had runners on first and second and the batter hit a line drive that was ticketed for center field," Marcoux said. "The pitcher got a piece of it with her glove and it went right to the second baseman. If that gets into center field, we're sending the girl home from second and who knows?
"I've been there for a long time," Marcoux added, "and Fairfield kids are fighters. It was good to see us fight again."
The Bulldogs (1-5) are in action again today, when they play at Hampden (2-4).
"If we play like we are capable, we have the potential to beat a very good team," Marcoux said. "I'm looking forward to (the Hampden) game. I'd like to see us put it together for two or three games in a row, instead of just, 'Oh, that's Lawrence doing it once.' "
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One of the best matchups in the state today is at 4 p.m. in Oakland, as Messalonskee hosts Brewer. The teams met in last year's Eastern A quarterfinals. Messalonskee loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh and the score tied at 1, but the Witches turned a sizzling line drive into an inning-ending double play. Brewer then won 3-1 in eight innings on Deaven Smith's two-run homer.
They're both 6-0 this spring, and Brewer is averaging a staggering 16 runs per game, while the Eagles are averaging nearly nine. Assuming Cony defeats Lewiston, the Messalonskee-Brewer winner will be one of two remaining unbeaten teams in Eastern A.
Matt DiFilippo -- 861-9243