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Close loss could help Madras softball focus in league

by: Photo By Gary Lindberg - After going 6-2 as a team in nonleague play, Madras pitcher Marisa Hulsey and the rest of the Buffs are seeking to earn a trip to the 5A state playoffs.

A close game, even if it was a loss to wrap up nonleauge play, might just be what the Madras softball team needed going into Intermountain Conference play.
   The White Buffalos lost 2-1 to Cascade on Saturday after three consecutive victories in the Sisters tourney (moved to Redmond due to snow on the Sisters fields). Madras finished off the nonleague season with a 6-2 record.
   "That final game is likely to be the kind of games we'll see in the IMC," Buff coach Shawna McConnell said. "We needed to see this kind of game, where we're fighting for runs the whole time."
   The close loss to Cascade was a contrast to the Sisters opener when Madras pounded Cascade 18-7, scoring 10 runs in the first inning.
   "Cascade used the same starting pitcher in both games, but we didn't hit the ball the second time we faced her," McConnell said. "Perhaps playing our fourth game in two days showed."
   Still, Madras outscored its foes 71-25 in the eight nonleague games. The Buff's only other loss was 5-3 at Henley (on March 22 in a doubleheader split).
   "The preseason is about preparing for situations in league play," McConnell said. "We did tons of good things in preseason -- running the bases aggressively, really hitting the ball and pitching well."
   Madras' primary pitchers have solid starts. Marisa Hulsey is 2-2 with a 2.15 earned run average. In 26 innings, the junior has allowed just 15 hits and three walks while striking out 19. Fellow junior Rachel Aimone is 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA. In 20 innings, Aimone has struck out 25 while allowing 17 hits and nine walks.
   Five Buffs are hitting .321 or higher. Holly Martin leads Madras at .450 (9-20) with Kara Katchia at .429 (10-29) with four doubles and two home runs. Sarah Leutwiler is at .370 (10-27) with Hulsey hitting .333 (7-21) and Danny Palmer at .321 (9-28). Both Katchia and Leutwiler have driven in nine runs each.
   Madras 18, Cascade 7: Seven Buffs drove in runs, led by freshman JoElla Smith driving in six with three hits. Palmer drove in three runs and Holly Martin two.
   Madras had three extra-base hits including a solo home run by Katchia with Aimone and Leutwiler both hitting doubles.
   Aimone and Macy Abendschein combined to allow four earned runs. Aimone struck out four in four innings while Abendschein whiffed three.
   Madras 9, Astoria 1: A three-run second inning started the Buff offense and a three-run sixth closed it out.
   Katchia drilled a two-run triple and Aimone a solo homer. Hansina Martin added a run-scoring double.
   All those runs were plenty for Hulsey who allowed just one run on four hits and a walk while striking out six.
   Astoria didn't steal a base as the Madras catcher Palmer picked off a runner early in the game.
   Madras 11, Sisters 4: The Buffs scored all their runs in the first three innings.
   Hulsey drove in four runs with two doubles and Aimone drove in two runs.
   "Not only are Marisa and Rachel pitching well, they're also hitting the ball well," McConnell said. "We want to keep their bats in the lineup when they aren't pitching."
   Thus, Hulsey plays second if she isn't pitching and Aimone left field. Both were in the field early against Sisters with freshman pitcher Abendschein, who went the first three innings with three strikeouts. Aimone gained the victory with four shutout innings, striking out four.
   "It's been fun to get all the girls in and play them in different positions," McConnell said.
   Cascade 2, Madras 1: The Cougars scored their only two runs in the first inning, just one earned.
   Then Hulsey pitched six shutout innings, but suffered the loss, allowing just four hits.
   "That's the second game this season Marisa has suffered a loss despite pitching well enough to earn a win," McConnell said.
   The Buffs had three errors and were unable to take advantage of seven Cascade errors. Madras also had six hits but left seven runners on base.
   A run-scoring double by Holly Martin in the fifth produced the only Buff tally. Martin and Aimone had two hits each while Hulsey also drilled a double.