Huntsville locked in top-10 matchup against Melissa

May 1—HUNTSVILLE — One game will determine the fate of two top-10 softball programs in the state of Texas.

Huntsville and Melissa are set to hit the turf in the area round of the Class 5A playoffs as both teams are vying to continue their seasons with the thought of a state title on their minds.

"I look at this as a great challenge. We played a tough preseason because we wanted to be ready for a team like this," Huntsville coach Morgan Bryan said. "Our district proved to be tough this year and I think our girls are battle-tested. We have gone through some adversity. We have done a good job of making adjustments and dealing with bad situations."

Huntsville's defense will need to be its strong point against the Cardinals team that puts the ball in play nearly every time they head to the plate. With 94 strikeouts in 803 at-bats, Melissa has hit the ball extremely well.

Three members of the Cardinals squad have over 50 hits this season as the Cardinals have bats all through the lineup that can bring it any chance they get. But the Lady Hornets have been sound defensively.

Senior Kali Klawinksy and sophomore Chloe Sanders have held down the middle of the field for a second consecutive season. The duo has combined for seven double plays and 97 putouts this season.

On the corners, senior Aariss McHale and Khole Klawinsky have held the rest of the infield down.

But the outfield is going to be the real test. Melissa has blasted 81 home runs this season as freshman Hutton Adrian leads the way with 19. She is followed by sophomore Kennedy Bradley (18) and Caigan Crabtree (17) to put runs across for the Cardinals.

In the bi-district round, the Lady Hornets used Jaz Enriquez, Valerie Martin, Rylie Hammond and Khole Klawinsky in the outfield across two games. With a Cardinals team that can put the ball in the air, Huntsville is going to need another strong performance.

"They are going to be the team that puts the ball in play. They don't go down looking. They won't make cheap outs. They are going to make great at-bats and pressure us in situations," Bryan said. "We have to be ready for that and play tight on defense."

Senior pitcher Jaelynn Duke is expected to make the start for Huntsville and will have to go toe-to-toe with two Cardinal pitchers who have allowed 43 runs in 163 1/3rd innings of pitching.

Duke, who has been a Lady Hornet starter for four years, can match them though. Duke has thrown 143 2/3rd innings, nearly 100 more innings than any other arms on the Lady Hornets roster, and has been dominant in every outing.

In district play, Duke had a streak of 10 plus strikeouts a game and has sent 200 batters down via strikes. While she has allowed 106 hits, she has been in highly contested games as Huntsville has six run-rules in 33 games this season.

"At the end of the day, we are not blowing everybody out. We are going into the game playing competitive ball games, I think that is huge for my kids. They are not used to blowing everybody out and having to compete for every out and hit."

While the Lady Hornets added a run-rule in the Bi-District round, the offense tailed off in the second game of the series. After scoring one run in the top of the first, Huntsville looked to keep its groove. In the second inning, Huntsville saw back-to-back singles before a Duke home run scored three. But Huntsville had one hit from that point on in the rest of the game.

Duke has been the Lady Hornets' strongest hitter followed by Katie VonRosenberg, McHale and

Enriquez are all hitting .400 or higher. But it will be the other spots that get the Hornets on the bags.

Kali Klawinsky, Sanders and Khole Klawinsky will be pivotal in getting on base against strong pitching.

"We want to focus on good pitches and attack the zone. We want to be aggressive in our counts and hunting for our pitch. We have to execute at the plate," Bryan said.

With this being a top-10 matchup, Huntsville is heading into it with a mindset of being an underdog, despite the 29-4 record and a fourth consecutive district title.

"It's an underdog mentality. If you look at it, we are not supposed to be here and compete with them. Everybody looks at us as 'Oh it's Huntsville' but we are Huntsville and there is a reason why we are here," Bryan said. "We want to show that reason. We want to do our job."

Huntsville and Melissa are scheduled for a 6 p.m. first pitch Friday in Whitehouse.