FORSYTH — Madeline Brown’s emergence as a complete catcher was again on display during Sparta’s 15-0, four-inning Class 2 District 5 first-round win versus Spokane on Friday.
Brown, who has blossomed as a junior in the batter’s box and behind the plate, was 3-for-3 with three RBIs.
It was her second straight three-hit game and fifth of the season. Brown has boosted her batting average to .507.
All this after a so-so sophomore season in which she hit .333 with 14 RBIs a year ago.
“I had a bad mindset last year when I got into the box. I would hold in (frustrations) and it showed a lot,” Brown said. “I would make a bad swing or pull my head and I’d immediately get down on myself. This year, I’ve relaxed and rolled it out when I have a bad moment — I let it go.
“I feel a lot better about my swing and am more confident,” she added.
"She’s had a lot of growth. It’s come with experience and extra work on her part,” coach Troy McPherson said. “She has been one who has tried so hard and wanted to do well for so long that she put pressure on herself. This year, she’s had success and is finding the confidence to become the ball player I know she is capable of being. She’s seeing that she can become that ball player, as well.”
Brown packs a wallop. She has 10 doubles and 30 RBIs.
“She smokes balls,” McPherson said. “It’s just a matter of her staying within herself and not trying to go deep.”
Brown’s defense is also on the rise, including her ability to frame Natalie Wilks’ pitches.
“I’m more familiar with Natalie the longer we play together,” Brown said. “Natalie knows to throw inside or outside and I know when it’s going to be low or high. I know on the inside pitch to stay inside and start out and move in, so it looks like you have to move your glove toward the plate, instead of away from it. I try to pull my glove (while framing), but not make it too obvious.”
Megan Brown also went 3-for-3 Friday while hitting a three-run home run on her way to five RBIs. Her two-run single in the fourth inning ended the contest.
The left-handed hitting Wilks went the opposite way for a two-run homer.
Wilks struck out 11 during her one-hitter. She threw a strike on 40 of her 50 pitches.
“I feel 100 percent, everything is working good,” she said.
Wilks adapted well to throwing on the turf at District host Forsyth. As a lefty, she sometimes encounters problems with her landing area on dirt infields.
“I honestly think I do better on turf because there’s no hole for me to fight through,” Wilks said. “Everything is opposite for me (on dirt infields), compared to (right-handed pitchers). I have to break through the right-handed (hole) every time. In warm-ups, I always have to dig my own hole for my foot to go to.”
Sparta advances to meet Marionville in a semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Monday. The Lady Comets rallied for two seventh-inning runs to knock off defending District champ Clever 2-1 Friday.
The Lady Trojans were wishing for a rematch with Clever, after the Lady Jays beat them earlier this season and in last year’s District final.
“I really want redemption against Clever,” Wilks said prior to Clever’s loss to Marionville. “I don’t think they should have beat us this year. I don’t think anyone thought they would beat us. I think they were surprised they beat us, too.’
McPherson is preaching for his players to make the most of this post-season.
“I told them (after Friday’s win) that is the last easy game we’re going to have,” he said. “Every team we play moving forward is going to challenge us and we have to be ready for that. We’re not going to take a single second for granted. We want to cherish every single moment.”