DISTRICT CHAMPS: Lady Hornet softball clinches fourth straight title

Apr. 16—HUNTSVILLE — On the final home game of the regular season, Huntsville clinched the district crown.

The Lady Hornets used an offensive burst in the sixth inning to vault their way to a 4-1 win over Dayton — the team that knocked them out of last year's postseason.

"I'm so proud of the girls. To see them take ownership of what they are doing, own it and go get it, is a great job," Huntsville coach Morgan Bryan said.

Huntsville kicked things off early with senior Jaelynn Duke. She ripped the fifth pitch she saw over the right field wall for a home run that appeared to set the tone early. Two batters later, fellow senior Katie VonRosenberg dropped a double to keep the pressure going.

But the bats stopped. A sacrifice bunt and a groundout stranded VonRosenberg at third base, leaving the Lady Broncos in a good spot with a one-run deficit.

The Lady Hornet offense collected a couple of hits here and there but for the most part, struggled at the plate. Between the second and fifth innings, Huntsville had one baserunner while Dayton tied things up at one.

With six outs left, the players had themselves to run to the foul pole and back.

And it worked.

Duke lited a ball through the field for a leadoff double to jump-start the inning. Aariss McHale laid a sacrifice bunt to move here and VonRosenberg hit a single to give Huntsville the lead back.

Emily Zunker and Jaz Enriquez added to the hit party to make it a 4-1 game. Huntsville tallied seven hits against Dayton to get the key win.

"I think it was execution. We started working on them last Friday. We have been seeing it and we know what we are looking for. I think it was my seniors stepping up and being leaders," Bryan said.

Duke is a player that most coaches want, and tonight was a big reason as to why. While going 2-3 at the plate and driving in a run, she shut it down in the circle.

Against Dayton, Duke saw 26 Lady Bronco batters. While Dayton grabbed four hits, only once did they string them together to plate a run.

Dayton pushed across the one-run in the third inning after a two-out walk to Ava Horrell and a single from Dimika Anthony-Conner, which was paired with some strong baserunning to get the run home.

Duke finished striking out six and allowing two walks.

"She is special. I could tell you all sorts of things but at the end of the day she is a special kid," Bryan said. "She is somebody every coach wants in the circle, and she wants it too. She always wants the ball and the pressure. To see her succeed and do as well as she is doing this year speaks volumes to the kid she is."

This season saw a lot of change for Huntsville and it started with playing several games on the road before finally opening the softball field. Huntsville played eight games on the new turf, with this being the final one of the season.

Now, the seniors leave the field for the last time as district champions.

"I think it's huge for my kids. They have waited so long for this stadium. To see it come to life and play their senior season here, I love it for the seniors walking off the field. I hope the kids feed off it and keep the mentality going into playoffs and next season," Bryan said.

Huntsville returns to the diamond for its season finale with a road trip to Porter. The Lady Spartans got the best of Huntsville on April 2nd and now the Lady Hornets are looking to avenge the loss.

First pitch for the season finale is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday in Porter. After that, the Lady Hornets will return to the postseason as the first seed from District 16, 5A.