There may be more sweet softball memories in store for the Red Raiders in 2020, but the girls from Danielsville probably won’t ever forget the night they wore big, pink cowgirl hats in the dugout, fought with some Dragons, then sprinted to hug their teammate who smashed a towering shot to left field on an 0-2 count to beat a rival in extra innings in a crucial moment.
Madison County senior Emma Strickland was masterful all night in the circle, allowing just two hits while striking out 14 Jefferson batters, but the loudest cheers from the boisterous home crowd came when Strickland turned on a pitch with two strikes and two runners on, lifting the ball over the Dragon left fielder and sending home two runs to give her squad a 5-3 win. The victory secured home field for the Red Raiders in the first round of the Class AAAA tournament.
“It was a great win for us and for our fans,” said Red Raider coach Ken Morgan. “It’s good for us to understand how to win in pressure moments. It will do us good down the road.”
The road to Columbus begins Monday.
Madison County (21-5) wrapped up its regular season Thursday at Flowery Branch, the region champions, with a 9-6 loss. The Falcons are the one seed, with the Red Raiders the two seed out of Region 8-AAAA. Madison County will host Mt. Zion Monday in the first game of round one of the state tournament at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., with an “if” game set for Tuesday at 5 p.m. if necessary.
Madison County needs to win three rounds in the Class AAAA playoffs to travel to Columbus the final week of this month for a four-team tournament, down from the usual eight teams due to the pandemic.
Morgan said he was really proud of his senior star pitcher, especially considering that she was down on herself for missing a sign during an earlier at bat.
“We talk about how it’s not what you’ve done that is most important; it’s the next at bat that matters,” he said.
And Strickland made her final at batter matter Monday, sending the crowd and her teammates into jubilation.
Morgan said the crowd was phenomenal.
“It was an awesome atmosphere,” said the coach. “We hope they’ll come back for the first round of state.”
Madison County had noteworthy performances besides Strickland Monday. Senior Ella Chancey reached base four times going 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored, a walk and two stolen bases. Skylar Minish was 2-for-3 with a walk. Lily Crane doubled and reached third on an error, driving home a run. Riley Smith had a clutch two-strike, two-out RBI single and also stole a base. Sam Minish had a hit, a run scored and a stolen base. Lexi Jordan had a hit. And Macey Echols stole a base and scored a run.
Madison County put up three runs in the bottom of the fourth and then surrendered three unearned runs after an error in the top of the fifth. Those were the only runs scored until Strickland’s blast in the bottom of the ninth.
Strickland finished the night with 143 pitches over nine innings, allowing three runs, but none earned, walking four and striking out 14.
MCHS 12, EAST HALL 2
Madison County cruised to victory over East Hall Oct. 7, 12-2, going 12-for-31 at the plate. Sam Minish led the team, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Lexi Jordan was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and a run scored. Claire Strickland was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Lily Crane had a hit and two RBIs. Riley Ernst was 1-for-2 with two runs scored. Emma Strickland was 1-for-2 with two runs scored and two walks. Ella Chancey was 1-for-1 with a walk. Macey Echols scored two runs. Riley Smith was 1-for-2 with a run scored. Jorga Huntsinger and Mary Drayke Summers both scored a run and Skylar Minish had an RBI. Summers also stole a base.
Claire Strickland got the win, giving up four hits, a walk and one earned run, while fanning three over five innings.