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How Madison pulled off two upsets in the NCHSAA softball playoffs

BREVARD — By the time junior pitcher Carrie Gunter took the circle in the bottom of the first inning against Brevard on Friday, Madison had already built her a six-run lead.

But the No. 23 seed Patriots (13-7), already owners of one playoff upset, failed to ease the pressure.

Behind Gunter’s strong pitching and an explosion of offense, Madison advanced to the third round of the NCHSAA softball playoffs with a 13-1 mercy rule victory in six innings.

“We have increased our pressure in training so that we know how to respond to a pressure situation,” said coach Rebekah Huff. “We put our girls through exercises designed to make them uncomfortable, so when we go to a game, it’s just everyday for us.”

The Patriots had to respond to that kind of pressure in the first round against No. 10 West Davidson on Tuesday. Trailing 3-0 in the top of the seventh inning, Madison scored four runs to clinch its first win of the postseason.

While Friday’s win came much easier, Huff said Madison used the momentum from that win on offense.

“Momentum is everything in this game,” she said. “Just a little bit of momentum goes a long way, and we see that today.”

Huff said her seniors are the heart and soul of the team. Throughout Friday’s win, they were the loudest players in the dugout, bringing the energy to the win.

“Our energy is what makes us so special,” Gunter said. “We’re always pumping each other up, we’re always hitting the ball. Even when we go down, we tell each other to lift our heads.”

Freshman Addie Sams, who leads Madison in batting average, runs, doubles and triples, has brought a tremendous amount to the top of Madison’s class.

Sams homered in the fifth inning to make it a 10-1 lead, her second of the season, just days after doubling the winning run in the first round.

Because of the way Madison has been practicing high-pressure scenarios in practice, Sams said the Patriots aren’t feeling the pressure as much.

“As long as we play as well as we are, we will always have confidence,” she said. “Especially after the past two victories, I feel like we are really confident now.”

Madison will continue to play on the road for the third-round playoff game against the winner between No. 2 North Stanly and No. 15 Bandys, but Huff believes her team is playing at a much higher level than the results indicate.

“We’re peaking at the right time now,” Huff said. “We’re hitting the ball out of the park. I couldn’t be more satisfied with my team.”

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Evan Gerike is the high school sports reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanGerike. Support this kind of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times.