WEIRTON – Madonna knows she’s playing her best softball right now, and it’s just a matter of postponing it to the Region 1 Class A tournament which kicks off Tuesday in Ritchie County.
The driving force has been confidence. The Blue Dons offense hit the ball all over the field. The defense plays almost perfectly with little to no fouls. And, ace Landry Bone sets fashion every time she enters the circle.
What helps is the culture veteran that head coach Chris Conti put in place at the start of the season.
“It makes such a big difference because we are not afraid of making mistakes” said second baseman Maddie Daugherty. “Mistakes are the only way to learn and grow to be a better player. The fact that we’re in that environment, I feel like it made our team even better.
Conti, who has over 300 career wins in over 25 years of training, was planning to retire before 2020, but ultimately put those talks to bed. Even after its cancellation due to COVID-19, those rumors never returned.
Anyone who’s seen Madonna play knows why.
“It’s not stressful at all because this group is so easy to work with. They are great players and just good people ”, said Conti. “They make you calm and make you want to come back and train. It’s a great environment. I don’t have any daughters, so these are all my daughters.
“I’m here for them. I have no connection with Madonna. These are my ties. I came back because of this group.
Conti also knew the potential of this team. He is in the regional tournament for the first time since 2010.
Tuesday’s opening game is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Game 2 will take place at Madonna on Wednesday, with a tentative start time of 6 p.m., although Conti will try to move it at 5 p.m. If a third match is needed, it will take place at 5 p.m. on Thursday. Ritchie County.
“The atmosphere is more that of coach Conti who told the seniors to lead the team”, said shortstop Michaela Battista. “Most of us have been here four years, and most of us have been playing this whole time and writing letters. The atmosphere has been quite energetic, and we are just ready to go.
“We (the six seniors) are just trying to figure out that we can reach the states. We just have to be positive so they can continue when our time is up. “
The Blue Dons (13-8) apparently sailed through the section tournament, with every game played in Wheeling. They first beat Cameron, 10-2, dealt Wheeling Central, 15-1 and won the title with a 9-1 win over Magnolia on Tuesday.
All three games give Madonna a score of 34-4. Conti knows, however, that County Ritchie will be a much more difficult task to manage.
“Player for player, not to say that (Ritchie County) is no good or anything, we are just as good if not better,” he said. “They have a very good pitcher who keeps them in the game. When she was down, they lost four games in a row. The pitchers we faced were fast pitchers and are good, but they’re not as fast as this pitcher.
“Our girls are hitting the ball. We’re on a roll right now, and we hope it’s still contagious. This is what we have traveled. They are so confident in themselves to hit the ball right now that I think they will do well.
Bone started each round of the sections, and the plan remains the same for the regional ones. Still, if need be, Daugherty will serve as No.2.
During the season, Bone has pitched and started 12 times with nine wins. She allowed 61 earned runs in 83 innings and struck out 109 on catches. Daugherty has the other four wins with 49 punches.
“Maddie is also a very good pitcher. They both are, “ said Conti. “Landry pitched quite a few innings in the last few games. She just took a lot of confidence and threw really well. I want to say that she has only allowed one or two walks in the last four or five games. Now she has that confidence in her pitches.
Conti added that he credits much of her success to wide receiver Miranda Sole, saying she calls every pitch on her own.
“She has improved a lot. She achieved her goals more than what she started with ”, Sole said about Bone. “His speed has also increased. I’m not sure, but I would say she throws in the 60s (with her fastpitch).
One Blue Don who came as a nice surprise is first baseman Casey Yacos, who can also field second if Daugherty throws. She delivered a two-run hit against Central and four more hits in the other two games, including three on Tuesday.
“Casey always does something positive. It is the life of our party ”, said Conti. “She keeps everyone energized and is on top with everyone. She doesn’t let anyone down and is just a great leader. “
Conti and Yacos agreed his game increased after the state’s semi-final basketball season ended. Due to COVID, this softball season has been delayed by a few weeks, so basketball and softball coincided for a short while.
With a few other players who have played both, Yacos’ time in a state tournament – regardless of the sport – is a good carry over.
“I really started to think to myself, ‘I have to do 3 for 3 or at least 2 for 2.’ As a senior I want to be a leader so if I start something positive it can lead to bigger things in the game ”, she said.
“It was really cool going to state basketball and being in a big gym. Now having that experience and bringing it to softball, I think it would be really cool to come back.
Bone, who normally reaches third in the roster, is Madonna’s leading hitter with a 0.508 average, 0.554 base percentage, eight doubles, six homers and 28 RBIs. Battista hits .350 with six double baggers, one homerun and 17 RBIs. Head hitter Daugherty set the table with a .475 batting line and 10 RBIs. Sole is averaging 0.318 with 17 RBIs and Adriana Lenhart is the fifth Blue Don with double-digit ribs at 11.
As long as the Blue Dons remain confident, anything is possible. The atmosphere created by Conti and the six seniors kept everyone relaxed, relaxed and confident.
“We have played the last four games or so without making any or at least a lot of mistakes. Our defense is just very good at the moment ”, said Conti. “It’s been good all year, but they stepped up their efforts before the section tournament. We moved a few people and it worked.
“There is no ‘I’ in the team, and I often stress that. They understand and know that we have to do it together. They never get along. They always complement each other. They bring each other back.
A LOOK AT CLASS A
In region 2, Clay-Battelle faces Petersburg, Midlan Trail faces James Monroe in 3 and Wahama, undefeated, faces Man in 4.