DANIELSVILLE - Thanks to a rain and lightning delay, Madison County’s round one double-header with Gilmer County started just after 6 pm, over an hour after the scheduled start time.

The Red Raiders made up for lost time however by scoring early and often in both games, sweeping Gilmer County and moving on to the second round of the state playoffs. Madison County hosts West Laurens (14-17, 9-2 Region 2-4A) next week with a double-header on Tuesday (Oct. 15) and a rubber-match on Wednesday.

Long balls were in abundance for the Raider offense in both games, while Emma Strickland and Lily Crane pitched out of jams to keep runs off the board. Ella Chancey, Kennedy Dixon and Skylar Minish each hit home runs.

“We’re excited to be moving on,” said head coach Ken Morgan “Credit Gilmer for coming down here, and having an hour and a half rain delay and just battling us. They brought it to us first game and second game. Credit them for giving us fits. I’m really proud of our girls. We had some great at-bats, some timely hits tonight and a lot of two-strike hits.

“Credit to our girls for battling through a No. 1 versus No. 4 matchup. Sometimes in your head, you’re thinking ‘okay, this is going to be a walk in the park.’ We had to dig a little deeper in some spots.”

Madison County (20-10, 11-1 Region 8-4A) started the series hot with a three-run bottom of the first inning. Rylee Ernst scored first, crossing home plate on Chancey’s line drive to left field. Strickland brought Chancey home with a single up the middle and Dixon scored on Crane’s sacrifice fly ball. Minish scored on a passed ball in the second inning to give Madison County an early 4-0 lead.

Gilmer got a run back in the top of the third when a single up the middle turned into a throwing error, allowing a runner to score from second base. The score stayed at 4-1 until Brooke Hooper hurried home on Lexi Jordan’s fourth inning single. Jordan then scored on a wild pitch.

Game one ended in the sixth when Chancey launched a pitch over the left field fence, scoring three runs and setting the final score at 9-1.

Despite the first game ending after 8 pm, and Gilmer County being over two hours away, the teams decided to play the second leg of the double header. Crane started the game in a jam. A tag at home plate by Gracie Nix kept one run off the board, but Gilmer still loaded the bases.

Crane managed to pitch her way out of the inning and Dixon wasted no time giving her some run support with a solo home run to center field. Brooke Hooper got on base afterwards, but her nifty base running skills weren’t needed. Minish found a pitch she liked and hit it out of the park. Madison County again started a game with a 3-0 lead. The middle part of the lineup came up big in the inning with a pair of runs. Chancey scored on Strickland’s hit up the middle and Dixon ran home when Crane singled on a pop up.

“The long ball changes the game because you don’t have to manufacture a run,” Morgan said. “That was exciting to see. Credit their pitcher, she kept us off balance. We hit a lot of hard balls that they caught, but that’s part of the game. But we played a little long ball tonight, we’re not used to that.”

Gilmer made the game interesting again in the middle innings, first scoring on a wild pitch in the third inning. Later, in the fifth inning, Gilmer hit a line drive to score two more runs, cutting the Raiders’ lead to 5-3.

Madison County won 7-3 after pulling away in the top of the seventh. Gilmer’s right fielder made a bad throw on Chancey’s deep fly ball, allowing Ernst to score and Chancey scored soon after on a wild pitch.

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