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Madison’s Marvelous Softball Season Ends

Warhawks shut down in state semifinals loss to Lee-Davis High.

Rest assured, the Madison High girls’ softball team’s season will not be defined by its Virginia State AAA championship game showing against Lee-Davis High and its dominant pitcher, Kelly Heinz, who tossed a perfect game, no-hitter in her team’s 3-0 victory over the Warhawks last Friday evening, June 9 at Westfield High School in Chantilly.

Madison, which captured both the Liberty District and Northern Region titles this season, simply could not generate any offense against Heinz, a softball flame thrower who led the Confederates to a second place finish in the Central Region this season. Few, if any, teams across the state would have enjoyed success against Heinz on Friday.

The right-hander, relying exclusively on her moving fastball and pin-point accuracy, threw a fastball that Madison coach John Schneeberger compared to being the equivalent of a 100 miles per hour baseball fastball, taking into consideration the shorter proximity of the softball pitching mound to home plate.

Heinz, perhaps somewhat drained, was not quite the same overpowering pitcher the following day (Saturday) when the Confederates lost to McLean, 4-2, in the state title game. Both the semifinals and finals were played in scorching hot summertime temperatures, and perhaps that was a factor in Heinz proving more mortal against the Highlanders, who racked up seven hits against her.

The state semifinals loss hardly diminished what Madison, under Schneeberger, accomplished this spring in going 26-3 overall and winning the program’s first region crown since 2005. But that didn’t make the season-ending loss any easier to take.

“It’s exciting to be here,” said Schneeberger, of his team getting as far as the state semifinals. “I would have liked to have won. It’s hard for the kids to lose anytime.”

It might have been adding salt to the wound for the Warhawks when, during postgame handshakes between the two teams, the public address announcer, informed the crowd it had witnessed state tournament history.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” stated off the announcer. “Congratulations to Lee-Davis High School pitcher Kelly Heinz, who just pitched a perfect game.”

Meanwhile, a song, `Perfect Day,’ played as a backdrop.

To Madison’s credit, the Warhawk players, as usual, were gracious during the handshakes and postgame award ceremonies.

“Our season has really been great,” said Madison junior pitcher Sam Brady, perhaps the Northern Region’s best pitcher this season who earlier in the postseason, in back to back region playoff outings, threw a perfect game and a no-hitter. “There were a lot of positives and it definitely was a success. We did our best.”

<b>BRADY HAD A SOLID</b> outing against Lee-Davis (Mechanicsville), allowing three runs (2 earned) on four hits while striking out seven and walking one. But she was overshadowed by the pitching of Heinz, who struck out 11 and never reached a three-ball count.

Madison did come close a few times to getting base hits. Senior Stephanie Buchko, with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning, hit a line drive ball down the right field line which the Lee-Davis right fielder made a nice running catch on. It is not certain whether the ball would have landed in fair or foul territory, but it was a nice at-bat by Buchko.

The following inning, with two outs, Madison senior center fielder Laura Wolf laid down a beautiful bunt and ran as hard as she could to first base, barely being thrown out on a nice play by the third baseman.

Madison shortstop Khristin Kyllo, in leading off the Warhawks’ sixth, smashed a sizzling grounder to third base, which was played well defensively for the putout. And in Madison’s final at-bats in the seventh, leadoff batter Emily Fogel hit a ball into the hole between shortstop and third. The Lee-Davis shortstop gloved the ball and made a long throw on a close out call at first.

It was just a game in which Madison couldn’t get on base in any way.

“I had faith in our offense, but that pitcher just shut us down,” said Brady. “She’s definitely different than anything we’ve seen. She kept us off balance. I didn’t see much offspeed [pitches] but she had spin on her [fastball]. We didn’t adjust.”

Wolf, Madison’s No. 6 hitter, was impressed.

“She was the best we’ve seen all season,” said Wolf, a team tri-captain. “She had really good movement.”

Schneeberger said Heinz would likely earn Pitcher of the Year accolades in the state.

“She not only had the velocity, but she moved the ball around,” he said.

Wolf said Madison has a lot to be proud of this season.

“I think we’ll look back and be pleased,” she said. “We had a lot of experienced senior starters and we were real consistent. It will be great to look back and say, `we are the region champs.’”

Schneeberger loved the group of players who made up the 2010 Madison softball team this spring.

“They worked hard and never quit,” said the coach, who added that Brady’s outstanding pitching all season long was a huge factor in his team’s success. “I’m real proud of these girls.”