Madison’s Logan Kleopfer slides under the tag of Carroll County pitcher Trey Boles (above) while scoring on a wild pitch. Madison and Austin both won two games and will play in the MCIT finals tonight.
Madison’s Logan Kleopfer slides under the tag of Carroll County pitcher Trey Boles (above) while scoring on a wild pitch.

Madison and Austin both won two games and will play in the MCIT finals tonight.

Madison rode two dominating pitching performances to a pair of baseball wins on Friday and a berth into the championship game of the Madison Courier Invitational Tournament.

Senior Ryan Thurston struck out 13 and walked only two while allowing one run on three hits to beat Carroll County 15-3 in the opener at Madison's Gary O'Neal Field.

In the nightcap, junior Clark Vaughn struck out eight and scattered six walks to knock off previously unbeaten South Central 5-2 in the semifinals.

"It was nice to win one that was actually close," Madison coach Shannon Barger said. "That's (South Central's) first loss of the season so that was nice as well to give our guys some confidence and hopefully it will carry over into tomorrow."

The Cubs will now face Austin in the MCIT championship today at O'Neal Field. First pitch is scheduled for around 1 p.m.

Madison 15, Carroll Co. 3

Despite temperatures hovering around the 40-degree mark at the start of the first game, Thurston had little trouble gripping the ball and getting his pitches across the plate.

After allowing Carroll County to score in the first inning and threaten in the second, Thurston (2-1) went into cruise control over the next four innings. The Western Kentucky University signee sat down 10 Panthers in a row at one point, seven by strikeout.

"Once I got used to the cold and the mound with all of the dirt, things worked itself out," Thurston said. "You just get used to (the cold). Just like if it's 95 degrees and your hands start to sweat, you just get used to the grip of the ball."

Madison (4-8) backed its southpaw ace with a strong hitting performance against Carroll County's Trey Boles, thanks in large part to Panther mistakes.

Logan Kleopfer bombed a double and later scored on a wild pitch to give Madison a 1-0 lead in the first.

Carroll County (9-9) got that run back in the bottom of the first when Dillon Craig walked, stole second and went to third on John Adams' single. Craig then stole home on the back end of a double-steal to tie the game 1-1.

It proved to be Carroll's last highlight of the game. Ethan Leach hit a one-out triple to right to start the Madison second and Tucker Callis and Xavier Barnes reached on back-to-back errors to give the Cubs the lead for good. Kleopfer then drove in two with his second double in as many innings.

Leach's RBI single in the third put Madison ahead 5-1 and two errors, a walk and a run-scoring single by Thurston in the fourth made it a 7-1 game.

"In the second inning we made a few errors that cost us some runs and we had a baserunning mistake that cost us a run," Carroll coach Jimmy Ray said. "Our goal was to keep it close and maybe get into their bullpen but it didn't quite work out for us."

Boles (0-3), a former Madison resident, pitched well enough to win. The senior righthander allowed only three earned runs out of the seven scored against him while striking out five and walking three. Boles' biggest problem was that he was forced to throw too many pitches.

"We didn't do him any favors out there," Ray said.

Chase Osborne relieved Boles in the sixth and had trouble finding the plate. He walked two and loaded the bases before sacrifice flies by Derek Anderson and John McCarty scored two runs for a 9-1 Madison lead.

Four walks and a hit batter combined with three hits led to six more runs in the seventh to turn the game into a rout.

Carroll County scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Anderson. Derrick Nickel and Keifer McIntyre both singled and Nickel scored on a groundout. Boles then plated the final run with a deep double to center field for the final 15-3 margin.

Overall Madison had 12 hits with Kleopfer, Leach and Thurston collecting three each. Tanner Sauley was 0-1 but walked three times and scored each time. Vaughn also scored three times.

"We took advantage of some of (Carroll's) mistakes which when the field is as wet as it is now, you're going to have trouble making clean plays," Barger said. "We didn't strike out very many times at all and we ran the bases very well at times. And we had some good at-bats later in the game, some sacrifice flies and got some bunts down. All of those things later in the year are going to pay off."

Adams had two hits to lead Carroll County. Austin Dunn added a double.

"We'll find out who wants to play baseball tomorrow," Ray said. "We've got prom tomorrow and some of the guys have plans. I really didn't want to play this tournament but I was talked into it. It's really not a good weekend for us. But we'll find out what we're made of."

Madison 5, South Central 2

Vaughn took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and limited South Central to just four hits total while handing the Rebels their first loss of the season in the nightcap.

Vaughn struggled with his control but his velocity remained high throughout and the junior righthander struck out the final batter of the game for eight total.

"I just tried to throw a lot of strikes. You don't want to put guys on base without them earning it," Vaughn said. "You've just got to establish yourself early and they'll go after (the high pitches)."

Like in the first game, Madison struck first with a run in the bottom of the first by taking advantage of control problems by South Central starter Jason Bosten.

Bosten walked Barnes to open the inning, hit Kleopfer with a pitch and walked Vaughn to load the bases. Sauley then made it 1-0 with a sacrifice fly to right.

The Cubs got two more runs in the third inning when Kleopfer and Vaughn hit back-to-back doubles and Anderson reached on an infield single. An error on Anderson's ball allowed Vaughn to score for a 3-0 Cub lead.

Three runs is all Vaughn needed but the Cubs didn't feel secure until the final out.

South Central (8-1) drew within one on a pair of runs in the fifth when Nick Veith, Bosten and Spencer Ray all singled in succession and two errors.

Vaughn (2-0) got out of the inning with just two runs allowed but it could have been worse. Austin Knear led off the inning by reaching on an error but he was picked off first shortly thereafter.

"We couldn't get a big hit for nothing. We just didn't put the ball in play enough," South Central coach Brian McKnight said. "We hit a lot of fly balls and a lot of ground balls and (Madison) made the plays on them. That's what they're supposed to do."

Vaughn led off the fifth with a double and later scored on Anderson's sacrifice fly to put the Cubs ahead 4-2. Madison got a crucial insurance run in the sixth with Leach doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

The Rebels used an error and two walks to load the bases and put the tying run on first. But Vaughn struck out Jack Turner to end the game.

"Clark was on his last batter. He went 130 some odd pitches and I've never let a kid throw that many before," Barger said. "He was on fumes but he found it when he needed it."

Leach continued his hot streak going 2-for-2 and reaching base all three times. Over the two games, the sophomore was 5-for-6 with a triple, a double and two runs scored.

Vaughn also had two hits - both doubles - and scored twice.

"We've got a lot of confidence as a group right now," Thurston said of the Cub offense. "Plus we're getting hits out of our 6-7-8-9 guys right now and that really helps."

Ray had a hit, an RBI and drew two walks to lead South Central's offense. Bosten (4-1) struck out seven, walked two and hit three while allowing five earned runs on six hits.

Madison will now try for its 25th MCIT title out of 36 contested tourneys.

"It's a big deal. It's called the Madison Courier Invitational, not the Austin Invitational or the Shawe Invitational," Thurston said. "It's our win."