Knights fastpitch wraps up conference crown

Considering what they had just accomplished, the on-field celebration following the Irondale High School fastpitch softball team's victory over North Branch on Wednesday was a bit subdued. The 10-5 win clinched the outright North Suburban Conference championship, the first in the history of the program.

Head coach Melinda Antonson and senior captains Carly Eichten and Hallie Schley all conceded that it wasn't the team's best game of the season but it was good enough to get the job done.

Irondale overcame a two-run deficit and three errors thanks in large part to a 7-run fourth inning. The Knights banged out eight hits and also benefited from a pair of North Branch errors.

Schley led off the inning with a base hit but was tagged out in a rundown following Navare Honoroff's bunt single. Maggie Schley followed with a grounder back to the pitcher but reached first when no throw was made. Jana Norgren then doubled to score Honoroff.

Megan Gjere singled to score another run and Delaney Kohler also drove in a run with a base hit. Gjere later scored when Brittney Frenette reached on an error and Kohler scored on a second error on the play.

Veronica Wold followed with a triple to drive in Frenette and later scored on Eichten's single.

The offensive outburst turned a 2-0 hole into a 7-2 lead. North Branch chipped away at that lead with three runs in the top of the sixth but Irondale answered with three runs of its own in the bottom of the frame.

Frenette led off the sixth with a walk and moved up on Hallie Schley's two-out single. Honoroff doubled both runners home and then scored on Maggie Schley's base hit.

Maggie Schley picked up the victory in the circle by pitching a complete-game five hitter. She gave up five runs (only one was earned), struck out one and walked none.

Irondale wrapped up its North Suburban Conference schedule with just one loss, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Spring Lake Park on April 24. Spring Lake Park and St. Francis finished tied for second with two losses each. Spring Lake Park dropped conference games to Totino-Grace and Robbinsdale Cooper while St. Francis lost NSC contests to Irondale and Spring Lake Park.

In addition to wrapping up the conference championship, Wednesday's win also extended the Knights' winning streak to 10 games. Irondale's most-recent loss was April 28 against Fargo West in the North St. Paul tournament.

Among the 10 victories in the streak are six conference games and three games at the Benilde-St. Margaret's tournament on May 12. Irondale beat St. Paul Academy, South St. Paul and Benilde to win the tournament.

Irondale closes out the regular season Thursday with a non-conference home game against East Ridge. Next week, the Knights head to the Section 5AAA playoffs at Rice Creek Park in Shoreview.