The ball popped up and Madison County senior Kara Price sprinted forward, made the grab and held on for dear life.
“I squeezed it as hard as I possibly could because I knew that was the last out,” Price said. “What a game, what a great game.”
Her snag sealed the Mountaineers’ 4-0 victory over Richlands in the Group 2A state final, the program’s first state title since 1995. It was a fitting finish for Madison with one of their senior leaders closing it out.
“The seniors stepped up really big-time through the region to today,” said Madison coach Jesse Yowell. “Her catching that was great, it just finished her career, Kara finished it off.”
Price got the win started with a two-run, first-inning single that gave Madison and pitcher Logyn Estes a lead to work with from the moment she stepped into the circle. Estes was brilliant, lead or not, locking up Richlands. She held Richlands to just three hits while striking out seven. She was in such a zone that Madison skipped its usual switch at pitcher to freshman Emily Seale.
“I didn’t change today and a lot of times I’ll just change to be changing,” Yowell said. “But they really weren’t hitting her so unless something happened bad, I wasn’t changing.”
Still, it was clear that the Madison pitching duo had an impact as Estes was fresh after a year of splitting time with Seale. None of the fatigue that can come after a year of a heavy load–and a particularly stringent load like Madison faced in the region tournament with two 12-inning battles — was there as Estes, a sophomore, was locked in.
“We threw a lot of screwballs and that seemed to work — we threw a lot of outside pitches and some curveballs, a lot of chase pitches were working really well,” Estes said.
Madison didn’t settle for Price’s early runs, immediately tacking on another run in the second on a Meadow Anderson RBI double, then Hannah Johnson knocked in an insurance run in the sixth inning to push the lead to 4-0. That consistent pressure made things tough on Richlands, the Region 2A West champions who edged Goochland to advance to the title game. The offense was a complete team effort too, as nine different players had hits for the Mountaineers while senior Carrington Frazier went 2-for-4 and scored a run.
“It just shows all the hard work we’ve put in for the last four years,” Price said. “We have worked day in and day out, hours on end and it means the world to us. This was our last goal and we accomplished it.”
The victory ended the drought since 1995, but it also ended years of close calls for Madison who has continually been on the cusp of winning a state title before running into roadblocks like future JMU pitcher Jailyn Ford and Bath County back in 2011.
“We have been to the state championships three times before and we weren’t lucky enough to get it those times,” Estes said. “I just think it’s so exciting to bring it back home today.”
They’re bringing back the ultimate prize, an ideal end to a fantastic campaign. But with a young roster, including two tremendous young pitchers, this ending could be just the beginning of something particularly special for Madison’s program.