Madawaska displays offensive versatility in softball prelim victory

MARS HILL, Maine — What started out with an inning of small ball evolved into a multi-faceted offensive attack as the Madawaska Owls overpowered the Central Aroostook Panthers, 22-13, in a Class D North softball preliminary contest Tuesday.

As a result, ninth-ranked Madawaska (8-7) earned a quarterfinal date against No. 1 Southern Aroostook on Thursday in Dyer Brook. The No. 8 Panthers finished the season with a 5-10 record.

After both teams were retired in order in the first inning, the Owls turned in their biggest rally in the top of the second by utilizing the bunt effectively. After Madawaska’s cleanup hitter, Emily Boucher, led off with a long triple, four of the next five Owls bunted, all of them reached base and they took advantage of a couple errant throws as part of the seven-run uprising.

“We play small ball early because I like to get off to a good start and on the board right off,” said Madawaska coach Matt Rossignol. “They had some unforced errors when we did that and I think that built our confidence.”

The Panthers got a run back in the bottom of the inning when Breann Bradbury reached on a single and came across on a couple defensive miscues by the Owls, but Madawaska then demonstrated some power hitting, courtesy of a bases-loaded homer off the bat of catcher Hannah Nadeau, to go up 11-1.

Emily Boucher of the Madawaska Owls collects one of her four hits during a 22-13 win over Central Aroostook Tuesday in the Class D North preliminary playoff game. (Staff photo/Kevin Sjoberg)

“I was hitting pretty well in batting practice and the pitch came in a little high and that’s where I like it,” Nadeau said, noting it was the third consecutive year she has hit a home run in Mars Hill. “It worked out pretty well.”

“I almost gave her the sign for the suicide squeeze bunt before she went up to hit,” Rossignol said. “I’m sure glad I didn’t.”

Central Aroostook scored runs every inning the rest of the way to stay in contention. The Panthers’ four-run rally in the third was highlighted by a ground-rule double by Libby Grass, while freshman Macie Beals slammed a two-run double in the fourth, Mersaydez Johnston an RBI double in the fifth and Annika Nicholas a two-run homer in the sixth.

However, Madawaska displayed too many weapons at the plate. The Owls scored five times in the fifth as Megan Roy and Keri Hebert provided opposite-field singles with two outs to keep the inning alive before No. 9 hitter Madison Nadeau drove a ball up the middle to knock in a pair of runs to cap the flurry.

Madawaska catcher Hannah Nadeau, left, consoles Central Aroostook’s Caitlyn Harris following the softball preliminary game played in Mars Hill. The Owls eliminated the Panthers with a 22-13 victory. (Staff photo/Kevin Sjoberg)

“They are a talented team defensively and hit the ball well and put it in play,” said first-year Panther coach Kevin Jackins. “Sometimes we made the plays and sometimes we didn’t.”

The Owls collected 19 hits in the game off Caitlyn Harris, with Boucher leading the way with four, three for extra bases. Every player in the lineup had at least one hit.

“The first part of our lineup, we really work on the power hitting and getting on any way we can, and our lower half we really try to get bunts down to advance runners and force the other team to make plays, and we executed that today,” Hannah Nadeau said.

Winning pitcher Riley Lausier surrendered three hits each to Beals and Grass, the top two Panther batters in the lineup who combined to score five runs and drive in five more.

“Two years ago, we didn’t even have enough players to field a team,” Jackins said. “We hit the ball well enough to win today. We did our best and that’s all you can do.”

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