After Bailey Smith powered Madison County softball into the state playoffs with an eighth-inning walk-off homer in the region semifinals, she memorably claimed she’d just “reared back and smacked it.”
That’s also the first thing she said to Emily Seale Thursday morning when Seale pulled off a similar blast to push Madison into the Class 2 state title game.
“As soon as I crossed the plate, Bailey was like, ‘you just reared back and smacked it’,” Seale said. “I was like, ‘yeah, I did.’”
Seale’s blast off the scoreboard in left center at Radford and her nine-strikeout performance in the circle lifted the Mountaineers into their second state title game in three years. The last time Madison advanced back in 2017, they won it with then-sophomore, now-senior Logyn Estes leading the way as a pitcher after splitting time with Seale throughout much of the season. This year, the ECU-bound Estes was sidelined briefly back in the regular season with an injury, but she’s continued to be a leader as a leadoff hitter and at third base while Seale handles pitching duties. Just before the seventh, with Seale in position to close it out, Estes glanced at the scoreboard and settled herself down, then turned to Seale as she made her way to the circle and offered a couple of words as one of the only people in the stadium who could understand what Seale was about to go through.
“You just don’t want to get too excited, you don’t want to get too nervous and I was just telling Emily too,” Estes said. “She was in one of those moments where you just have to breathe deep and take it. You just have to focus and dial in.”
Seale leaned on her defense in the final inning, forcing two popouts to first baseman Kaylan Boone before Smith snagged a blooper at second base after Seale allowed a single up the middle. Having the Mountaineers’ savvy, reliable defense behind her allows Seale to get into attack mode and not try and do it all by blowing it past the opposing batters.
The batters would stand really off the plate or really on the plate so I had that advantage because if they were off the plate I’d just pitch it out and if they were on I’d pitch it in,” Seale said. “I don’t have to stress out whether (the defense) is going to catch the ball or not and if they don’t catch it they’re going to get it in quick.”
She then helped her own cause with the shot to left center, anticipating a strike from Adrienne Morrison with Smith on second and just one out after a Sophie Adams sacrifice.
“I knew she had to throw a strike right there,” Seale said.
Adams nearly put one out herself and Madison managed to make good contact on several occasions only to watch Lebanon snuff it out. But Seale came through in much the same way that Carrington Frazier did back in 2017 when she hit a two-run blast against Lebanon off Morrison’s older sister Hannah to vault the Mountaineers in the semifinals.
It was a fitting performance for Seale, who has carried a lot of the load for the Mountaineers after suffering her own injury earlier this season that kept her out of the lineup.
“She’s really special, she’s really picked it up,” said Madison coach Jesse Yowell. “Today she was hitting her spots and keeping them off guard. Inside, outside, she was doing her job, doing what she needed to do to take us to this point.”
Now the Mountaineers get to find out whether they can take that final step and join two other legendary squads in Madison softball lore: the 1995 and 2017 state champions.