FRANKFORT — The Eagles felt like they had been abandoned.
Given up on.
And with good reason.
Just three days before the start of the season, their coach unexpectedly walked away from the team after four years.
That stunning resignation was followed by a morale-challenging five-game losing streak.
It was a low point.
And it prompted interim coach Travis Frith — who had no head coaching experience — to send a message to the team.
"He just kept telling us that we had talent and that we could win," Madison Southern junior Britton Robinson said. "We rallied behind him and he kept giving us that same speech day-in and day-out. We bought into what he was selling. Coach Frith has done an amazing job."
That motivational message helped spark a remarkable turnaround.
Madison Southern moved into the semifinals of the 11th Region Tournament with a 12-7 win over Franklin County on Sunday night. The Eagles had just seven hits, but took advantage of eight errors and got a solid start on the mound from Robinson.
Southern used a five-run fifth inning to secure the program's first 11th Region Tournament victory in six years.
"I don't think that too many people thought that we would do this," Frith said. "Part of it was that they were trying to prove everyone wrong."
The Eagles have shown that resilience all season.
After what could have been a disastrous start to the start, Southern won seven-straight games.
"It's hard to get them to quit," Frith said. "They never stop fighting. It's easy to coach when you know your kids won't give up."
The Eagles, however, did struggle in the final weeks of the season.
They had lost three of their past four games heading into the 11th Region Tournament and needed a nine-inning win over Berea Community last week just to keep their season alive.
"We had to depend on ourselves to push us through," Southern sophomore Michael Bannister said. "When someone has a bad day, we aren't on them. We are always behind each other."
That belief in each other was tested again on Sunday.
The Eagles and Flyers had already met twice this season, with the home team winning both games.
Southern took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Bannister singled and scored on an error.
Franklin County pushed across two runs in the bottom of the inning.
The Eagles answered back with three runs in the second, highlighted by a two-run single by Bannister.
Franklin County tied the game (4-4) with two runs in the bottom of the third.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Robinson said of playing Franklin County for the third time this season. "We knew we had to take advantage of their mistakes. We had to throw strikes. We played a complete game."
Southern took the lead for good in the fourth.
Titus Haskins ripped an RBI double before Robinson and Kruise Newman each delivered a sacrifice fly.
In the fifth, Tanner Hembree had a two-run single and Robinson added another sac fly.
Robinson went six-plus innings. He allowed four hits, six runs (four earned), with 11 strikeouts and three walks.
He threw 115 pitches.
"He's a gamer. It doesn't matter what game it is, he is consistent," Frith said of Robinson. "You know what you can expect. He will always give you quality innings. He's a quality player."
Robinson went back out for the seventh inning.
He hit the first batter, then issued a walk.
"I was gassed," Robinson said. "My arm slowed down. I know that I've got plenty of guys behind me that can get the job done."
Bannister got the job done, but the Flyers didn't make it easy.
Franklin County got a pair of hits and scored three times in the final inning. Bannister had three strikeouts and also hit a batter.
"I wasn't worried," Bannister said. "I just knew I had to throw it down the middle, let them hit it and someone behind me would make a play."
Bannister was 2-for-3 with two walks and scored four times.
Robinson was 1-for-2 with two RBI. Haskins was 1-for-3 with a double, two walks, an RBI and scored twice.
Tristan Ingram was 1-for-2 and scored twice. Hembree was 1-for-3 with two RBI and scored twice.
Southern advances to take on either Henry Clay or Lafayette on Tuesday at Scott County.
The Blue Devils and Generals got through only an inning before their game was halted by rain on Sunday.
They will resume play at 2 p.m. today in Lexington.
That scheduling change certainly benefits the Eagles,
"I think a day off is going to be good," Frith said.