Lady Lion softball heads to playoffs with another district title

Apr. 25—HUNTSVILLE — After losing five senior starters last year to graduation, Alpha Omega Softball needed to find a new set of players and one senior to lead the way.

With four district titles under their belt, the newfound Lady Lions battled all season to clinch the TAPPS District 6 title for the fifth consecutive year — including their first district loss in that time frame.

"Winning the district was a huge accomplishment to this team because we lost five starters and had a lot of new faces," Lady Lion coach David DeShaw said. "We also knew the district was going to be tougher this year. To be able to win the district again is special."

Despite all the questions entering the season, AOA knew they had a staple part of the roster back for one more season.

Allie Warren, the Lady Lions' lone senior, was returning to her role with a big bat and arm in the circle. After becoming a four-year starter, she became a pivotal part of the Lady Lions this year. Warren became a leader on and off the field with a team that added six freshmen.

"Allie's leadership and everything about her moves our team. She does whatever you ask her to do. This year, she is catching when she isn't pitching," DeShawn said. "She has been huge and why we won the district."

With Warren's leadership, the Lady Lions continue to surge. After being the workhorse arm for most of her career, DeShaw had an opportunity to add some help for her. Last season Warren threw 71 1/3rds innings but received help this season.

Sophomore Morgan Keenright stepped up to help her in the circle. Keenright made 11 starts this season and pitched in 12 games. While she didn't log nearly as many innings, she boasted a 7-4 record and went a perfect 4-0 in district.

Warren picked up the other side with 12 starts in 13 games and pitched 62 innings. While neither of them are predominantly strikeout pitchers, they combined for 120 this season but allowed 167 hits.

"They have done a super job this year. Morgan didn't get that many innings as a freshman, but this year, they split the reps. We aren't afraid to put either one in," DeShaw said. "They have done a good job and either one of them can go."

With a major turnover in the lineup, AOA had a lot of answers to keep its bats going for another season.

AOA needed to find bats at the back end of the lineup to try and complement the big bats they had with Warren, Keenright and Caycee Curtis as the top-three returners from last year.

The Lady Lions did that with freshman Kolbi Ashorn and sophomore Claire Jackson in the lineup to help get runs across.

"They have done a pretty good job all in all. Our lineup wasn't as stout as it was last year. We are getting girls to put the ball in play and we did that," DeShaw said. "We didn't quite run the table in the district, but we did what we needed to do."

But the middle of the lineup has continued to do its damage.

Warren leads the team with a .610 average through 59 at-bats in 23 games. Warren has 36 hits, six more than the next batter, and 17 extra-base hits to get into scoring position. She has struck out twice this season and walked another 19.

With Warren batting in the second spot, Keenright normally has a runner on for her at-bats. The sophomore has tallied 30 hits for the squad and leads the team with 34 RBI in 23 games. Her plate discipline sets her up with one strikeout and 21 walks.

Ashorn bats clean-up and through 18 games, has 19 hits and 22 RBIs to help the Lady Lions score 208 runs this season.

"Our two through four has been hitting the ball with power," DeShaw said. "They have done an excellent job with runs, RBIs and keeping the lineup going."

While they won the district title, things do not get easier heading into the postseason. AOA will match up with the runner-up from District Five, Shiner St. Paul.

It will be the third consecutive meeting of these two teams in the playoffs, with Shiner getting the win each time. Last year, the Cardinals ended the Lady Lions' season with a 16-5 crushing win in the area round.

With a 12-7 record this year, the Lady Lions have another opportunity at the beast as they try and get their first win against the program.

"Shiner is Shiner. They are back-to-back state champions. We know they are good and we have to battle. We have to make them earn it. We have to play our A-game and do everything they can do to play," DeShaw said.

The Lady Lions will host the area round against Shiner at 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, on the AOA softball field.