STANDISH — With each stride, Madeline Wood turned something simple into some significant.
Madison’s freshman second baseman thought she had produced a measly two-out single in the fifth inning Saturday, but as she legged it around the bases, her hit to right became something far greater.
“When I hit it, I didn’t think it was going to go that far,” Wood said. “I thought I was just going to get a base hit, but Coach kept rounding me and rounding me.”
That sharp single to right curved away from the Calais outfielder and rolled toward the outfield fence. It turned into the game-winning home run. Wood was running all the way and sent home for the decisive play in a 1-0 win over the Blue Devils.
“When I got home, it was just unreal,” Wood said. “I thought I’d get to third but a home run in a game like this as a freshman is unbelievable.”
It is the first state title for the Bulldogs (19-1) since 1997, when Madison had won four straight. Since then, Madison had lost in 1998 and last year.
“This has been my dream since I was a little kid, since I started pitching back in the sixth and seventh grade,” said senior pitcher Emily McKenney. “I owe the world to my coaches and to my parents and to my pitching coach. They helped me so much. They all really pushed me. I owe them all the thanks in the world.”
McKenney allowed just three hits and struck out eight. She only walked one.
“In warm-ups, I tried to be more focused than I was last game,” McKenney said. “We got her last year and it really sucked to lose. We didn’t want that feeling again. In warm-ups, I really focused on what I needed to do to keep my nerves intact.”
Calais’ Olivia Smith was nearly as good. She allowed only two hits and struck out three and walked just two.
With hits hard to come by, every chance was crucial. There was no holding back. So when Wood’s hit found space in right, coach Chris LeBlanc wasn’t being cautious.
“I really made the decision when I saw where the cut was,” LeBlanc said. “She had a little bit of a transition. [Wood] was already at third for me. I thought probably she was going to make it. It had to be a super throw.”
Wood was expecting to be held up at third and then realized she was being sent home. The relay throw was caught in shallow right-center. It made for a long throw to home. Wood beat the throw and the tag.
“I kind of slowed down at third because I didn’t think it would go that far,” Wood said.
Though Wood wasn’t on the team last year, she followed it because her sister, Kirsten, now a senior, was a member.
“They definitely deserve it,” Wood said. “This group has worked really hard. I know following my sister that they’ve been working and working. This was their goal. I just wanted to contribute to this as much as I could.”
Calais got a lead-off single from Madison McVicar to start the game, but McKenney put down the next 10 batters. Jasmine Ross and Smith had back-to-back singles in the fourth, but McKenney got a strikeout to end the inning. Calais got a walk in the fifth with two outs, but that was the last runner the Blue Devils could get.
Madison got a single from Cristie Vicneire and a walk from Savanna Kandiko in the second with one out. Smith struck out the next two to end the inning. In the fourth, Aly LeBlanc led off with a double. Vicneire came up. Instead of having her bunt, LeBlanc had her swing away. She hit a grounder to short that turned into a double play when Calais threw LeBlanc out at third.
“I questioned myself, you’re always going to do that after,” LeBlanc said. “When we had Aly at second, they were playing up. We were going to bunt her. We had no outs. I didn’t. Vicneire had a hit early on. So if she gets a hit, she scores.”
After that, LeBlanc knew he had to be aggressive in such a tight game and take the chances. It was in tune to the message he had given his girls beforehand.
“Coach said to give it all you’ve got,” McKenney said. “This was the last one, the last hurrah. We had to give it everything we had, and I think we did that today.”