Madison 6, Westfield 1

For the third game in a row, Madison's bats erupted in the first inning, this time grabbing a two-run lead over Westfield. That was enough offense for the fifth-ranked Warhawks to claim a third consecutive Virginia AAA Northern Region softball title, defeating the Bulldogs, 6-1, last night at Falls Church.

In the past three games, Madison (24-3) has outscored its opponents by a combined 7-0 in the first inning. The Warhawks will host the Eastern Region runner-up at 6 p.m. Tuesday in one state quarterfinal, while No. 10 Westfield (16-7) will travel to the Eastern champ on the same day. Because of wet field conditions, Kempsville and Kellam's game for the Eastern Region title was postponed to today.

With hits from eight players last night, the Warhawks claimed the school's 11th region title. Only one other time has a school won three consecutive Northern Region softball titles -- Madison from 1987 to 1989.

"The expectations in the Vienna community for softball are very high, no question," Warhawks Coach Tammi Talley said. "But we came in confident tonight that we were going to win. Now we'll set our sights on doing what we didn't do last year -- win a state title."

A season ago, behind the masterful pitching of Lauren Frankiewicz, Madison reached the state final before falling 1-0 to Stonewall Jackson.

"When we think about how close we came last year, we can't help but want to get back and win it," said Frankiewicz, who struck out 15 Bulldogs, allowed three hits and was named the tournament's most valuable player.

The game's key moment came in the fourth, with Westfield trailing 2-1, two outs and a runner on second base. Linda Pirro had just singled between Frankiewicz's legs to make it a one-run game, and her pinch runner stole second. Carolyn Jones then popped a ball up behind second base, and Madison freshman shortstop Morgan Davis circled under it.

But as the ball came down, two of Davis's teammates converged, crowding her. As she avoided her teammates and moved toward right field, she caught the ball and fell forward, causing the ball to pop out of her glove. But Davis lunged forward and secured it in the tip of the webbing for the out.

The Warhawks, who collected 10 hits last night and averaged 11 per game over their past three games, then rallied for two runs in the bottom of the inning to make it 4-1. Dari Gore (two hits) had a clutch single in the rally. Madison added two more in the fifth when Frankiewicz doubled in two runs.

The Bulldogs loaded the bases with help from two Frankiewicz walks in the fifth but did not score, and they squandered a chance in the sixth when Jones reached on an infield hit. Westfield also committed four errors, allowing four unearned runs.

"If [Davis] doesn't make that catch, who knows what might have happened," Westfield Coach Dean Ferington said. "It's harder to win when you give the other team four or five outs."

Said Jones: "We thought as long as we could put the ball in play, we might be able to make something happen. We just didn't pull through when we had to with runners on base."