Cunningham challenged Madi Ogden, ace pitcher for the undefeated Wildcats of Williamsburg High School
to a 10 pitch/10 swing showdown on the diamond.
By Chuck Gibson
WILLIAMASBURG, OH (May 19, 2021) – It was a perfect afternoon for some fast-pitch softball at Williamsburg High School Tuesday afternoon. Earlier rain stopped, the skies cleared and the temperature climbed above 80–degrees by the time the self-proclaimed “Great American” 700 WLW talk host Willie Cunningham stepped up to home plate for the showdown with Wildcat ace pitcher Madi Ogden.
Ogden has a perfect 26-0 record for the undefeated Williamsburg High School Wildcats ladies fast-pitch softball team. She has yet to allow a single earned run mowing down opposing hitters with an average of over 2-strikeouts per inning pitched. Oh, if that is not enough, she has held opponents hitless in 12 games. That’s right; she has thrown 12 no-hitters among her 26 wins. She can bring the heat. Her fastball is clocked at 65 mph; from the 43 foot distance from the mound to home plate it is the equivalent of a Major League fastball over 95 MPH! Whew! You get the picture
Cunningham claimed over the airwaves during his show on 700-WLW he could and would do what her contemporary high school competitors seem unable to do – put the ball in play. He boasted he could hit the ball in play (fair territory) 5 times in 10 swings batting facing Madi’s pitching. It was game on for the competitive senior high school ace. The date was set for a 4 p.m. showdown Tuesday afternoon, May 18, on the home field of the Williamsburg Lady Wildcats. The phone lines lit up with callers nearly unanimously betting a hot fudge sundae Cunningham would “go down” swinging against Madi Ogden.
Willie became the “Goliath Mouth” spouting off his own accolades daily leading up to the Tuesday showdown. He boasted of his prowess as a hitter; dating back over 50 years to his college days at Xavier University when he homered off Ferguson Jenkins who went on to a stellar Major League pitching career. Cunningham confidently claimed “hitting a baseball is like riding a bike, you never forget,” yet somehow his claim went from hitting 4 of 10 pitches into play in fair territory instead of his original claim he’d put 5 of 10 pitches in play.
Willie was not without his favorite on-air sidekick, 700-WLW’s sports reporter Bill “Seg” Dennison. In fact, he set Dennison up to face Madi for 10 swings first. It gave Willie a chance to get a look at Madi’s stuff. It gave Madi Ogden a good warm-up to face Willie.
A crowd of more than a couple hundred filled the bleachers behind the backstop and wound its way around the first and third-base lines standing or seated in their own lawn chairs. As the hour drew near, Willie was all smiles as he and Seg Dennison posed for photos with Madi Ogden.
A bright shining sun lit the field from above as Madi took her position in the pitchers circle 43 feet away from home plate with her teammates taking their position on the field. Left-handed-hitting Seg Dennison stepped in. Madi delivered, 10 times Seg Dennison swung the bat managing only to weakly foul one ball toward the third-base dugout and slightly tipping another foul straight back to the backstop. Still, the crowd cheered and Dennison wished Cunningham “good luck” as he passed the helmet and bat on to Willie.
The “Great American,” still laughing and smiling, stepped into the right-handed batters box against the right-handed ace pitcher. Again Ogden delivered. It was a first-pitch fastball for a called strike.
She delivered again and Cunningham stuck the bat out in time to tap a slow roller a few feet up the first-base line. The first baseman moved toward the ball, stopped and watched it roll to a dead stop. Fair Ball! “That’s one,” shouted Cunningham. Voices from the crowd could be heard hollering “No Bunting Willie, No Bunting!”
He swung hard at the next three pitches connecting on all three; one ground ball on the infield, a pop-up on the infield, and he even managed to hit a pop-fly into shallow left field easily caught by the left fielder. None of the four balls was hit hard, but all four were hit by Willie into fair territory – put in play.
“I’ll tell you what, I was cheating,” said Cunningham after it was all over. “I was looking at the catcher to get the signal so I knew what was coming.”
He swung five more times failing to strike another ball with the bat. He finished hitting the ball into play 4 out of 10 swings.
“She switched me up,” Cunningham claimed. “There was another signal the catcher was using to take off the called pitch and call something else. As a consequence, I did make 4 out of 10 in the field of play which ain’t bad. I was gonna swing no matter what.”
The hot fudge sundae bets were all based on the 4 out of 10. Cunningham says he won all the bets and intends to collect. The crowd cheered and laughed all through the contest. It was fun for everyone.
“That was just awesome,” said Ogden, who did strike Willie out during his 10-swing at bat. “I just loved it. I loved that my team was able to be part of it with me. I’d be nothing without them behind me. I like having them out there with me. It was just so much fun.”
When it was over, Madi Ogden and her Williamsburg Wildcat teammates gathered around Cunningham as he offered some words of encouragement for their continued journey toward the Ohio State High School Girls Fast-pitch softball championship. They need to win 4 more to complete a perfect undefeated season with a State Title.
‘It was cool to see them come out here and talk to me,” Ogden said. “They put it in play; it doesn’t matter as long as no one crosses that plate. I just enjoyed the opportunity and originally he said 5 out of 10 and he did not get that. That’s what I go by.”
Ogden says the biggest thing on her mind and for her Wildcat teammates is to just keep winning. After that it will be graduation; which by the way, Madi also holds the honor of being the Williamsburg High School Class of 2021 Valedictorian.
“I always tell people, I’m probably not the smartest in my grade, I just hate to lose and I was very competitive with it,” said Ogden. “When I found out at the end of my junior year I was ranked #1. I was alright, I’m not losing that. That’s how I went at that.”
Following that, it is “the next big step” onto college at Morehead State University in Kentucky where she will continue her academic studies and her competitive fast-pitch softball career as a student/athlete
“I’m excited to go to Morehead and continue my softball career,” she said, “as well as go into mathematics, maybe education.”
All of this is no small feat for anyone, but it is especially worth noting Madi Ogden overcame serious injuries resulting from an auto accident just before entering her freshman year in high school.
The injuries she sustained required brain surgery and included a broken back and pelvis. This is not lost on her mother Nicki Ogden.
“That’s sheer determination,” said Nicki. “She doesn’t’ like to lose. She has a lot of fight in her that one does.”
She had fun watching her daughter in the contest with Willie Cunningham, but admitted to being a little nervous Madi might hit him with a pitch. She didn’t and she also didn’t throw him her screwball.
“She didn’t throw him the screwball,” Nicki said. “If she threw the screwball, he wouldn’t have touched it. She’s signed with Morehead, she’ll be going there. She’ll be playing fall ball and we’ll follow her there. We won’t miss many games.”
The Williamsburg Wildcats were represented quite well on the softball diamond Tuesday by Madi Ogden. If Willie was supposed to be the “Goliath” and Madi “David” it is safe to say, despite his four fair balls, once again David has slain Goliath. The fans were entertained and now they’ll keep cheering Madi and the Wildcats as they aim for the State Championship.
“This is great,” Cunningham said. “This is the way America ought to be right here. It was wonderful.”
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