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Two Historic Triangle middle school athletic programs –Grafton baseball and Hornsby softball – took home Bay Rivers District championships.
The Grafton Middle baseball team completed a perfect season, going 11-0 and defeating Hornsby Middle 7-3 to claim the Bay Rivers District championship.
For Grafton, the win becomes even sweeter after losing to Hornsby twice before in district championship games.
Grafton Coach Buddy Dearing said this year’s team was successful thanks in part to his assistant coaches, but also to the team’s manager system, which helps prepare sixth graders to play with the team in future years.
“We take sixth-graders that are not eligible to play and we create managers positions. They practice with our team – they hit, they run, they do everything with our baseball team, but they do the grunt work first,” he said. “Three years ago we took a group of sixth-graders and that group was so talented – normally we keep one or two managers – we kept eight. All eight of those guys end up being studs on my team.”
That group of managers soon became the backbone of Grafton’s team, creating a lineup that Dearing said was tough from top to bottom.
Dearing also said this group will be one to be reckoned with at the high school level.
“This is a state level team,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 14 years. This group here will be Grafton [High’s] next opportunity for state baseball.”
In softball, the Hornsby Hawks avenged regular-season losses to York and Tabb. Hornsby Middle defeated York in the Bay Rivers District semifinals before taking down Tabb in a dramatic 9-8 championship game.
Dubbing the district tournament the “Redemption Tour,” Hornsby scrapped out a championship despite an error-riddled championship game.
Hornsby’s Tara Rowden started the scoring in the top of the first inning by smacking a solo home run over the center-field fence.
In the top of the fourth, Madalyn Morton delivered a two-run single to right field before Taymar Gorelick scored on an error later that inning to put up the Hawks 4-0.
Leading 5-1 in the bottom of the sixth, the Hawks gave up a pair of runs to watch their lead shrink to two runs.
The Hawks responded in the top of the seventh as Jacquelyn Boesler delivered a clutch two-run double to left field to put Hornsby up 7-3.
Four Hornsby errors in the bottom of the seventh inning led to four Tabb runs, tying the game at 7-7 and sending the championship into extra innings.
In the top of the ninth, Emily Morgan and Boesler each hit RBI singles to put the Hawks back on top 9-7.
Tabb attempted one last rally in the bottom of the ninth. The Tigers added a run to cut Hornsby’s lead to 9-8 before placing two runners in scoring position with two outs. A hard grounder was smacked to the circle, but was corralled by Hornsby pitcher Morton, who threw to first for the final out.