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One win away from state

Buff softball needs victory to clinch state playoff game

by: Photo By Gary Lindberg - Senior shortstop Sarah Leutwiler leads the Madras softball team in hitting with a .333 average.

Just one more win.
   That's what the Madras softball team needs this week to clinch a winning record in Intermountain Conference play and a trip to the state 5A playoffs.
   Both the winning IMC record and trip to state would be a first for any White Buffalo team this school year. Madras softball enters this week at 7-5, and in fourth place in the IMC, with two games left to finish the regular season.
   The Buffs hosted Summit on Tuesday, May 6 (played after press time). The Storm owns a 7-0 victory against Madras early last month.
   Since then, both teams have gone in opposite directions. The Storm lost seven consecutive IMC games (nine overall) while Madras owns a two-game winning streak coming into this week, including a 12-0 victory at Bend.
   That victory puts the Buffs two games ahead of both Summit and Hermiston going into this week. Hermiston is out of the playoff race since Madras already swept the Bulldogs last month.
   However, Summit has a slim chance. If the Storm wins at Madras, Summit will own the playoff tiebreaker by sweeping the Buffs.
   Then the fourth-place race will come down to Thursday's finale when Madras travels to Mountain View (a day earlier than the original schedule). The Buffs will need a victory to move into the playoffs.
   "This IMC season has shown a team can't take another team lightly," Madras coach Shawna McConnell said. "We have to be ready to play every game. We can't be looking at the other team's record."
   The IMC's fourth-place team will be on the road in the state playoffs. First up will be a Friday, May 16 game against the PIL's third-place finisher (likely Roosevelt). The winner then travels to meet the Midwestern champion (Churchill of Eugene) on Tuesday, May 20.
   Madras 12, Bend 0: An unintentional BYOB didn't keep the Buffs from hitting.
   When Madras loaded up for the trip to Bend, the team's bats were left in the storage room. Fortunately, many of the players brought their own bats, which they shared with teammates.
   "At first, I was thinking `what a bunch of knuckleheads we are,'" McConnell said. "It worked out though. We did exactly what we wanted to."
   A productive start topped the Buffs' wish list. Madras put together a four-run first inning with five hits to take control.
   A lead-off single by Hansina Martin, stolen base and Marisa Hulsey's single scored the first run. Kara Katchia and Danny Palmer followed with singles to set up three runs on errors.
   "This season, the third has been our big inning," McConnell said. "We talked about getting after them right away. That's exactly what we did."
   Sarah Leutwiler added a run-scoring single in the fourth and Hulsey a two-run double in the seventh, part of driving in three runs.
   Meanwhile, Bend was limited to just two hits by the duo of Rachel Aimone and Maycee Abendschein. Aimone allowed the two hits, a lead-off single and another single in the sixth, her last inning. The junior also had a walk while striking out three. Abendschein struck out two to go along with a walk in the seventh.
   Bend seemingly had another hit in the sixth, a liner up the middle. Except the shortstop Leutwiler made a diving grab.
   "That was the play of the game," McConnell said.