Lots of children dream of their shining moment, that chance to be a hero.
When the moment came for Anne Madsen, she delivered, and now her South Whidbey softball team is headed to the state tournament for the first time in recent memory.
The Falcon fastpitch squad won three of four 1A bi-district games May 21 and 23 to punch its ticket to the state tournament, the first time South Whidbey has qualified in more than a decade. And they did so in dramatic fashion.
Playing for the final berth against Nooksack Valley with the game tied at 2-2, Madsen hit a game-winning blooper. The ball dinged off the bat and fell between the pitcher, shortstop and second baseman to score Aria Ludtke and send South Whidbey to Richland for the state tournament.
“I’m like, ‘I have to make it to first,’” said Madsen during the team’s last home practice of the season Wednesday before heading to Richland on Thursday. “I honestly did not realize that was it. I thought we were going to have to go back out there, then I realized everybody was cheering and was like, ‘Ahhhh!’”
With that hit, South Whidbey punched its ticket to compete for the state title.
“It was scary, but I believed in Anne,” said Falcon freshman pitcher Mackenzee Collins. “Anne’s a great hitter.”
The win represented a remarkable turnaround in the postseason. South Whidbey finished near the bottom of the Cascade Conference standings with a 5-13 record in league play and 7-13 overall.
“We all needed to find where we are most strongest at and really use it for the team,” Madsen said. “They’ve all done really great, especially without having a break with subs.”
South Whidbey’s performance at the end of the regular season and in the playoffs was another story. In the final two weeks of the regular season, the Falcons won three out of four games. They won their first-round game in the 1A District 1/2 tournament 5-0 against Forest Ridge behind the pitching of freshman Mackenzee Collins, who struck out 17 batters and allowed only one hit and a pair of walks.
“Those last games, I think it was more, kind of, our attitude,” Collins said. “We all wanted to win, it was more we didn’t expect to. When we started to get going, it was like, ‘We can do this.’”
Three Falcons went 2-for-3 at the plate: junior Leah Merrow, and seniors Chloe Huffman and Anne Madsen. Ludtke, who played her first season of organized fastpitch in 2014, hit a two-run double.
Errors cost South Whidbey in an 8-4 loss to Mount Baker in which not one of the Mountaineers’ runs was earned. Another loss and the season would have ended.
South Whidbey rebounded in the elimination bracket against Lynden Christian. Overcoming three errors, the Falcons won 3-2 to play in the winner-to-state contest against Nooksack Valley.
Both teams’ pitchers were stellar. Collins threw all seven innings and allowed six hits with a pair of walks against eight strikeouts. The Pioneers’ pitcher gave up three runs on five hits against nine strikeouts.
Bouncing back from a rough-and-tumble regular season, South Whidbey softball boarded a bus Thursday morning bound for Richland, the site of the tournament.
South Whidbey faced Seattle Christian Academy at 10 a.m. Friday morning. The results from the game were not available by press time. Win or lose, the Falcons were scheduled to play another game that afternoon against either La Center or Connell.