MONMOUTH — For much of Friday's softball game, Reen Kahl was firing pitches across the plate with accuracy and ferocity.
In the seventh inning, in a scoreless tie, she hurled herself at the plate instead.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Kahl sat waiting at third. When a wild pitch hit the dirt and scooted the backstop, Kahl was off and running.
"As soon as the ball goes by, I knew there were no outs," Kahl said. "The ball was pretty far back there. I had confidence. I'm not the fastest person, but I'm a big person. So I had confidence that if the ball was there, I could knock it out. So I went for it."
Kahl slid in safely for the lone run in a battle of unbeaten teams. Monmouth edged Madsion 1-0 as the two top teams in Western C met for their only regular season meeting.
"It was a heck of a game," Monmouth coach Rachel Bernier said. "That's the way it should be. When you have quality teams like that, it's going to come down to one run."
Kahl pitched a one-hitter and struck out 11. She also had the game's only extra-base hit. Madison's Emily McKenney pitched a nice game as well, scattering five hits and striking out five.
Both teams were superb in the field. Monmouth (7-0) had no errors and got some fine play from Caroline Bonenfant at short and Natalie Young at first. Madison (8-1) turned two double plays and got a nice diving catch from Shelby Cutten in left.
"It comes down to putting the ball in play and making them make plays," said Madison coach Al Veneziano. "They made the plays today."
One of the Bulldogs' double plays nixed a Monmouth threat in the bottom of the sixth. Instead of Kahl coming to the plate with a runner in scoring position in the sixth, she led off the seventh.
"All through the game, I was thinking how I wasn't getting the player combinations I wanted at the plate," said Bernier. "In the seventh, we did."
Kahl wasted little time and went after the first pitch from McKenney. She drove it to right, 10 feet shy of the fence.
"She'd consistently been throwing a lot of first pitch strikes," said Kahl. "The coaches have been telling us to attack it. I usually like to wait it out a little bit more. I went with the strategy. We've been working on away pitches and took it to the opposite field."
Kylie Kemp followed with an infield hit and then took second. Shannon Buzzell was walked to load the bases. With Angie Bechard at the plate, Bernier simply wanted Bechard to hit the ball to the outfield. She intended to send Kahl no matter what, but a pitch in the dirt changed that in a hurry. Kahl got a great jump and beat any throw to the plate.
"Fortunately, Reen read the play right, to see there was no coverage," said Bernier. "She's a savvy baserunner. That's half the battle, reading the situation and then you've got a little bit of an edge."
A single from Kayla Belanger in the second was Madison's lone hit off Kahl, and even that poke had to sneak under the glove of Kahl and Sabrina Beck to reach the outfield. Though Madison fouled off a lot of pitches early and made Kahl work, the Bulldogs were swinging freely for most of the contest.
"We talked about getting up there and swinging the bat," said Veneziano. "You can't hit it if you don't swing it."
Kahl knew Madison wanted to be more aggressive and used that to her advantage.
"It's more of a head game then a physical game," Kahl said. "They figured out the high pitch wasn't the one to swing at. So I had to come in and out a little more. They were looking to hit more later because they needed the run."
Monmouth got hits from Bechard, Beck and Colby Wilson through the first six innings but couldn't turn those into runs.
"They made some nice defensive plays that took us out of some offensive opportunities," said Bernier.