Four-run fourth inning keys Madison over Columbian

MILAN — Columbian had managed to push across a single run through the first four innings against Madison pitcher Sloan Kiser.

But until the bottom of the fourth, that run — scored by Autumn Sehlhorst — had been all Columbian had needed. Behind a solid effort from pitcher Maddy Herdlick, the Tornadoes went to the bottom of the fourth of the Division II district semifinal 1-0.

But that’s when things unraveled for the Tornadoes.

It started when Madison put runners on second and third with nobody out. That prompted Columbian coach Erica Dickman to bring in Abby Chapman to pitch. Chapman had won the Tornadoes quarterfinal game against Willard.

Her first assignment was difficult — University of Pittsburgh commit Leah Boggs.

“After my first at-bat, I realized the defense had shifted all the way to the left side of the field,” Boggs said. “And I was just looking for an outside pitch so I could go with it.”

Boggs got it, and ripped a double to score both runners. The Rams added two more runs in the fourth and another in the sixth, beating Columbian 5-2.

Madison coach Tim Niswander said he was “extremely” confident Boggs was going to come through.

“She’s a player,” Niswander said, “and there’s a couple of kids in our lineup that I look at with runners in scoring position, and I’m really comfortable with them, so it’s not just her, but today, it was.”

After Boggs’ double, Mackenzie Mullins walked, with Boggs reaching third on a wild pitch. Mullins then stole second during Morghan Ross’ at-bat.

Then, Chapman threw another wild pitch, scoring Boggs and allowing Mullins to reach third. The final run of the inning came home when Columbian catcher Carly Schafer tried to pick off Mullins, but the throw got away from third baseman Bailey Gibson. The Rams led 4-1.

“It’s hard to swallow that we were playing so well, and then, one inning after that we got it together,” Dickman said. “They’re a good team, and the difference is, they were clutch today and we were not.”

Dickman pointed to the first inning, when the Tornadoes loaded the bases.

“Couldn’t produce,” she said. “That’s the difference there. When they had runners in scoring position, they produced.”

The Tornadoes got a run back in the fifth. Macy Allen singled in Schafer to make it 4-2. But Madison answered in the sixth when Egypt Murphy singled in a run.

Herdlick took the loss. She went six innings and was charged with two runs, walking one and striking out one. Chapman allowed three runs, two earned, on two hits. She struck out four and walked three.

“They did a great job today,” Dickman said of her pitchers. “A couple wild pitches, a couple walks, but they did a good job keeping them off balance.”

Madison starting pitcher Sloan Kiser threw a complete game, allowing two runs, one earned on three hits. She walked four and struck out four.

“Sloan moves the ball around really well, and the biggest thing with her is, there are games where she’ll rack up some strikeouts, but even when she doesn’t, she does a really good job of throwing it on the end of the bat, throwing it on the handle,” Niswander said. “If you’ve got runners on base, and those are the kind of swings you’re getting, we’ll play defense behind that.”

Madison improved to 19-4. The Rams will go for a district title today when they play Bellevue at 5 p.m. The Lady Red advanced in Wednesday’s second game, defeating Ontario 5-1.

As for Columbian, it ends 17-7.

“I was telling them in the huddle here that our seniors have really built us up to where we are now,” Dickman said. “Before I got here they had two wins, and this year they’re going to have 17. So, that’s a big difference, and that was in part because the seniors kept everybody up. I’m hoping that our juniors and sophomore — Kennedy Coots too — can step up and be leaders next year so we can have another successful season.”