By Eric Shultz
For The Daily Item
DANVILLE -- Holding on to a one-run lead with runners on first and second base, Danville shortstop Baylee Hackenberg fielded a ground ball, flipped it to third base and recorded the game's final out.
It was a simple play to wrap up a victory that was anything but, as Danville topped Warrior Run, 6-5, to capture the 9-10 division's District 13 softball championship on Tuesday.
"These girls worked hard all year, all season to get here and they did a great job," said Danville manager Jeff Wagner. "We didn't play to the best of our ability tonight, but we'll work on that."
Danville scored most of its six runs without swinging the bat, as it collected just four hits.
Warrior Run starting pitcher Madison Waltman threw 15 strikeouts and held a no-hitter until the fourth inning. The strong pitching forced Danville to use timely base running and discipline at the plate to take a lead.
That is what the team did in the third inning, when three bases-loaded walks by Alyssa Tucker, Trinity Willoughby and Britney Toborg gave Danville a 3-1 lead. The team stayed patient at the plate that inning, drawing six walks total.
In the fourth inning, Danville finally notched a hit off Waltman with a single on a bunt from Hackenberg. Two at-bats later, catcher Lydia Gordner also hit safely, reaching first base on a hit that ultimately scored both Hackenberg and Lindsey Cashner.
"It was huge," Wagner said of Gordner's hit. "It gave these girls an extra boost of confidence, gave them new energy. And that's what we needed."
Emily Heath put Danville ahead 6-3 in the sixth inning, when a throw to second base on a stolen base attempt sailed into center field. Heath took advantage of the miscue and kept running, scoring on the play.
The run was just enough to hand Waltman the loss, despite her impressive amount of strikeouts. Warrior Run manager Pat Betz called the decision for Waltman tough, as she had been pitching well in all of the team's games.
Danville's three-run lead nearly turned into extra innings or worse, though, when Warrior Run batted for the final time.
Waltman and Marissa Pick walked with one out, and both were brought home when Jade Swartz hit a double through the left side.
Lindsey Cashner, who came to the mound for Danville in relief of starter Morgan Wagner in the third, then recorded a strikeout. But one walk later, Warrior Run had both the tying and winning runs on the diamond.
The rally was cut short, however, when Hackenberg recorded the force out to retire the side.
"I've never been that happy at a softball game in my entire life," Wagner said.
The close contest was a much different outcome than the last time the two teams played, a 13-6 victory for Danville.
Betz said his team was more aggressive this time around, leading to a closer game.
But Wagner and Cashner were almost as effective on the mound for Danville as Waltman was. The two also combined for a no-hitter until the fourth inning, and together they threw 10 strikeouts to lead Danville to the district title.
"Morgan pitched a good two innings," Wagner said. "Lindsey, she's my savior. I put her in, she's going to give me strikes. And that's what it comes down to: strikes."