BREWER — Chris LeBlanc spent the better part of March telling anybody who would listen that this was a rebuilding year for the Bulldogs.

His youngsters were having none of it.

With a lineup featuring four underclassmen, including three freshmen occupying the top three spots in the batting order, Madison rolled to a 7-1 win over Dexter in the Class C softball state championship game Saturday at Coffin Field. Rebuilding year no longer, it was the beginning of another chapter in the Bulldog dynasty.

“They’re all different individuals, and some of them I can grab and tell them how I’m feeling and others you’ve got to kind of stroke along,” LeBlanc said of his newcomers. “At the midway point (of the season) when mistakes were being made, that’s what we’d say to them. ‘You’re not freshmen anymore.’ Certainly, the last part of the year, mistakes aren’t excusable anymore.”

The underclassmen were front and center on Saturday.

Landyn Landry, Lillian Levesque, Brooke McKenney and Jerzey Tewksbury combined to drive in three runs and score three more. McKenney, as she did for most of the second half of the season, pitched the final three innings in relief of starter Lauria LeBlanc. She allowed just one hit while striking out three.

“It’s definitely more nerve-wracking than starting,” said McKenney, who first came in to close out a close game in relief on the road against Oak Hill in the middle of the season. “I’ve had to focus on my pitches. But I know that if they hit it, the team behind me has my back.”

When the schedule opened with preseason games, LeBlanc opted against trying to fit in thee or four contests outdoors in poor conditions. Instead, he took his team to Topsham’s indoor facility where it played 10 games — including a number against Class A and Class B teams.

When an intrasquad scrimmage in Topsham between a team of freshman and sophomores played the Bulldog upperclassmen, LeBlanc started to think differently about the outcome of the 2019 season.

“I thought, ‘Maybe some of these girls really are going to play for us,’” LeBlanc said.

Landry, a freshman shortstop, made two key defensive plays against Dexter while the game was still close. Her diving catch on a pop-up in the second inning kicked off a double-play, and she ended the Dexter fourth with a dynamite play deep in the hole to nab Abigail Paige by a half-step at first.

She said she felt as if she fit right in almost immediately.

“Once I found my place on the team, it felt amazing,” Landry said. “By the third or fourth game in, it finally felt like a family to me. I stepped in and did my role.”

Madison is graduating only three players from this year’s team — outfielder Jen Dean, designated hitter Emily Blauvelt and second baseman Jessica Turcotte.

What does that mean for 2020 in the Mountain Valley Conference, the Class C South region or even the state championship picture?

Landry thinks there’s plenty more in store for the Bulldogs.

“It’s almost the same team coming back,” Landry said. “It’s motivating. Next year’s going to be a big year for us, too.”

On Friday night, the team gathered for its now-annual night before the state championship dinner. Present and accounted for were Emily McKenney (Class of 2014), Ally LeBlanc (2016) and Whitney Bess (2018) — all of whom were part of previous Madison state championship teams. They wrote letters to the current Bulldogs about what it means to be part of the Madison softball program.

“Now, it’s almost an expectation for them,” LeBlanc said. “It sets the tone. We’re going to start practice next week… and we’re into the offseason. When they win early on, like these freshmen, they can’t be complacent.

“We’ll just see.”


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