Madison sophomore Katie Vannicola knew better than to let the two-run homer she surrendered to McLean’s Sabrina Sanchez get to her in the bottom of the second inning. She has had too many big starts for the Warhawks and too much travel experience to lose her composure.
So Vannicola stayed calm and allowed just one more run the next five innings as the No. 4 Warhawks rolled, 8-3, over McLean. Vannicola allowed nine hits in the complete game win and struck out 10.
She allowed two runners to reach in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings but each time the threat was extinguished by an impressive riseball and standout defense.
“You just have to learn to block that out, you know they’re on base but you have to focus on throwing your pitches,” Vannicola said.
The pitch that allowed the home run was a curveball called for by Madison Coach Jim Adkins that he quickly took responsibility for postgame.
“That home run was my fault, I called the wrong pitch to the wrong location,” Adkins said. “I was proud of the way Katie regrouped and battled.”
Vannicola looked to get stronger as the game progressed, and didn’t show fatigue after starting four games for the Warhawks last week.
As Vannicola settled down, the Warhawks could only muster two hits through four innings. Madison (7-0) became more patient in the top of the fifth after Adkins calmed them down prior to the inning.
Back-to-back one-out singles from Blake Brackett and Jackie Yahner knotted the game at 2-2. Then senior shortstop Kat Olsen (2-for-4, three RBI) ripped a single through the gap in short to plate two runs and give Madison its first lead of the game.
Olson entered that at-bat 0-for-2 with a groundout and flyout, and jumped on the first pitch she saw.
“The pitch was thigh high and that’s my favorite pitch to hit,” Olson said. “I just took my chances and I connected.”
With the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, sophomore Julia Hoy provided insurance runs with a base-clearing double to center that gave the Warhawks an 8-2 advantage.
The Highlanders (4-1) added a run in the bottom of the frame on a one-out double by Olivia Bravo (2-for-4, RBI) but Vannicola got the next two batters to fly out and ground out to seal the win. McLean’s Maddy Witchey posted five strikeouts in 6 1 / 3 innings.
“Both teams were really pumped up for the game and wanted to put on a good show for everyone,” Olsen said. “I have friends on McLean and I really wanted to beat them.”