RADFORD — Good pitching and timely hitting are key attributes to postseason softball success.
Emily Seale displayed both Thursday during Madison County’s 2-0 victory over Lebanon in the VHSL Class 2 state semifinals at Radford University.
In the circle, the Region 2B Player of the Year tossed an absolute gem. The junior pitcher struck out nine batters, including four looking, en route to a three-hit shutout.
“Everything was pretty much working,” Seale said. “Cassie [Smith] was behind the plate and she was framing balls pretty well today. I think we just had it going on today.”
Coach Jesse Yowell was impressed with the poise of his pitcher in her first state semifinal game appearance. She struck out six of the first nine batters she faced, including three looking.
“She was hitting on all her different spots and placing the ball where it needed to be — inside, outside, low high,” Yowell said. “Her change-up was good.”
Seale helped her own cause at the plate with a two-run home run that went off the scoreboard in left-center field to provide the lone offense of the game.
After stranding two baserunners in the top of the first, Madison County (24-2) went to work against Lebanon starter Adriene Morrison. Bailey Smith led off the inning with a big walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Sophie Adams to get into scoring position.
Seale worked the count full and forced Morrison to give her a pitch to hit. The sophomore tried to sneak a fastball by her, but the Madison County junior turned on the pitch and hit it over the wall to give her team a 2-0 lead.
“I knew she was getting nervous when I was up to bat,” Seale said. “I had a full count and her catcher was like, ‘You cannot let this girl get on base’, and I’m like she’s got to pitch a strike. I knew it was coming and like Bailey [Smith] said before, I just reared back and smacked it.”
As Seale jogged around the bases, her teammates excitedly rushed to the home plate area to greet her after her right foot touched the plate.
Yowell said it was one of the biggest hits of the season for the Mountaineers.
“It was really important,” Yowell said. “A two-run homer in that situation there. There weren’t a lot of hits by either side, so when you get a two-run home run, you feel good. We have good defense too, so we know it’s going to be tough for the other team to score.”
Madison County had other opportunities to score over the final two innings, but Averie Long turned in a pair of web gems in center field to keep Lebanon in the game.
Later in the fourth, Kaylan Boone hit a shot to the wall in center field and Price made a leaping catch just above the top of the fence to end the inning. Price’s good glove worked carried over in to the fifth, when she robbed Logyn Estes of an extra-base hit with another play at the wall in right center field.
With the lead in hand, Seale retired seven straight batters before Haley Finney singled through the middle of the infield with one out in the seventh inning to bring the tying run to the plate.
Seale didn’t panic.
She got Hailey Finney to pop out to Boone at first for the second out. Abby Compton followed with a soft-liner to second that Bailey Smith caught to end the game.
Yowell credited Seale for taking over the game in the circle.
“She shook some pitches off that I called,” Yowell said. “I let her have that free rein if she doesn’t feel comfortable with that pitch, with that batter, and she did a great job. She called some of her own pitches.”
Tatum Dye, Compton and Morrison had the lone hits for Lebanon in the loss. Morrison scattered two runs on two hits and struck out eight in seven innings in the circle.
“We knew Lebanon was tough,” Yowell said. “They’re a good team and they have some good hitters. We just got a little bit better today.”
Madison County will face Richlands in Friday’s Class 2 state championship game in a rematch of the 2017 title game. The Mountaineers defeated the Blue Tornado 4-0 in that game to claim the program’s second state title. Game time is 9 a.m. at Radford University.
“We’re really excited, the whole team is really excited,” Yowell said. “We know what that feeling is back in 2017 and that’s what they want again. That’s what they worked all year so hard [for]. It’s an extra-long season this year with the extra week in all. That’s what they want and that’s what they’ll eventually get in the in.”
Seale can’t wait.
“It’s amazing,” Seale said. “I’m pretty excited to send the seniors out with being in the state championship game. I hope everything goes as planned.”