Monmouth’s Abby Ferland slides and beats the throw to Madison catcher Ashley Emerly in the fifth inning Friday at Monmouth Academy.

MONMOUTH — Monmouth softball co-coach Dave Kaplan was proud and excited because he and the Mustangs found out they could play with 2016 state champion and 2017 unbeaten Madison.

That revelation, however, came with heartbreak.

The Bulldogs rallied back from a five-run deficit in the seventh inning to win 8-6 at Monmouth Academy on Friday.

“It’s actually a huge confidence builder,” Kaplan said. “These guys are the team to beat in this league. We had them in the seventh. We let them get away, but now we know we can compete with them.”

Friday’s game was a matchup of the top two teams in Class C South, and it lived up to its billing through the first five-and-a-half innings, during which neither team budged much.

The Bulldogs (11-0) took the first lead when Ashley Emery’s sacrifice grounder brought home Lauren LeBlanc in the third inning.

The Mustangs (10-3) responded in kind in the fifth to tie the game at 1-1. Julia Johnson sacrificed home Abby Ferland, who led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on Rhiannon Dumond’s single.

After a three-up, three-down inning by Monmouth pitcher Emily Chasse in the top of the sixth, what had been a display of stellar defense turned a bit sloppy.

The Mustangs’ bats made solid contact in the bottom of the sixth, and the Bulldogs suddenly had a hard time catching the ball.

Haylee Langlois singled home Emily Kaplan and Tia Day, and then scored on Ferland’s hit to left field that was misplayed. Before there was one out, the Mustangs had a 4-1 lead.

A drop at third base brought in Hannah Anderson and Ferland to make it 6-1.

Madison was three outs away from its first loss of the season — two outs after Monmouth second baseman Moriah Herr made a nice over-the-shoulder grab to lead off the top of the seventh.

“It was good character,” Madison coach Chris LeBlanc said. “I didn’t know how we would react. I’m in the dugout wondering (before the seventh inning) what I’m going to say, and at that point, I chose not to say anything.

“At that point, what are you going to say?” LeBlanc added. “We had a couple errors, missed a fly ball and some things. Anything I said probably wasn’t going to be good. So that was a time I used my better judgment and didn’t say anything — just let it ride.”

Then, as the Mustangs did in the sixth, the Bulldogs started making nice contact. And, as Madison did in the sixth, Monmouth began struggling in the field.

It all happened so fast. Lauren LeBlanc and Aishah Malloy singled, and Emery reached on an outfield error to load the bases.

Whitney Bess singled in LeBlanc, Madeline Wood brought in Malloy and Emery scored on Annie Worthen’s sacrifice.

Monmouth’s lead was down to 6-4 with two outs.

A dropped foul pop-up kept Sydney LeBlanc’s at-bat and the game going, and she ended up driving in Bess and Wood to tie the game at 6-6.

Up stepped Destiny Howes, who tapped into advice from a former teammate.

“I always remember Aly LeBlanc, a senior last year on the team,” Howes said, “she always told me, keep your head on the ball and then hit it. See the ball, hit the ball.

“When I walked up to bat, I thought that, I had everybody in the dugout cheering for me, and I just, I had a good hit.”

Howes connected for double scored Sydney LeBlanc the go-ahead run from first base.

“I was excited. I don’t even think I touched the base yet, and I saw Syd score, I was just pumped. It was great,” Howes said.

Madison added insurance when Marah Hall’s single scored Emily Edgerly.

“That’s why we play every inning, and that’s what we tell the girls, and even when we’re down,” Chris LeBlanc said.

Wood then retired the Mustangs one-two-three in the bottom of the seventh to end the game.

Wood pitched all seven innings for Madison, striking out two. Chasse also struck out two and went the distance for Monmouth.

Ferland went 3-for-3 at the plate. The catcher also initiated a run down when she tried to pick off Malloy at third base in the third inning. Malloy was eventually tagged out by Chasse.

“Oh, man, the pickoff play. She had three hits, I believe, too,” Kaplan said. “She had a great day. She’s really come alive with the bat, and it’s solidified the middle of the order.”

Monmouth gets another shot at Madison next Friday. The Bulldogs play three games before the rematch, while the Mustangs have just one, Wednesday at home against Mt. Abram.

“We get them next Friday, and, you know, we may see them in the playoffs,” Kaplan said. “So, it’s all good. Now we know we can compete with them.”

“I couldn’t be more happier with these kids. They’re awesome.”

Madison’s Madeline Wood scores the tying run as Monmouth catcher Abby Ferland waits for the throw during the Bulldogs’ seven-run rally in the seventh inning. Madison added two more runs in the inning and won, 8-6.Madison players swarm pitcher Madeline Wood (33) after the final out of the Bulldogs’ come-from-behind 8-6 victory over Monmouth on Friday at Monmouth Academy.Monmouth pitcher Emily Chasse releases a pitch against Madison on Friday at Monmouth Academy.Monmouth third baseman Hannah Anderson throws to pitcher Emily Chasse (2) while trying to catch Madison’s Aishah Malloy in a rundown after a pickoff attempt at third base in the third inning. Malloy was eventually tagged out by Chasse.Monmouth catcher Abby Ferland jumps to catch a throw from third baseman Hannah Anderson while Madison’s Aishah Malloy is caught in a rundown after a pickoff attempt at third base. Malloy was eventually tagged out by Mustangs pitcher Emily Chasse.


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