The Horizon Honors Middle School softball team wrapped up its 2018-19 season last week with an undefeated record and the Cactus Christian Schools League championship.
It’s the second championship in a row for the Eagles, and third overall in the last seven years.
“They really came to play and get along with each other,” Horizon Honors coach David Denardo said. “They worked really hard in practice with their batting and that helped a lot.
“Our pitching was key on defense but we wouldn’t have won a couple of our games if it weren’t for the girls being able to get on base.”
Led by pitchers Lucy Holweger and Eliana Anglada, Horizon Honors allowed just five runs throughout the course of the season, two of which were earned.
The Eagles’ strong defensive play carried over to their offense, which scored more than 170 runs against its opponents this season.
The success of the softball team radiated throughout the school, as the team continuously drew in large crowds despite having to play at nearby Desert Foothills Park due to renovations to the field on the school’s campus.
“Their friends, teachers and family all came out,” Denardo said. “They really enjoy having them come out to support them.”
The team is made up of both seventh and eighth graders with different playing experience. While some of the girls have and still play on club teams during the offseason, others haven’t ever played softball before.
Denardo, who has been with Horizon Honors for 10 years, enjoys having the opportunity to teach some of the girls how to play the game. While some end up leaving the sport altogether, others stick with it and go on to play for Horizon Honors’ high school team.
The lack of experience for some players also gives those who have played before the opportunity to grow as leaders, a trait that Denardo believes helped his team succeed the past two seasons.
“Their leadership and experience was huge,” Denardo said. “Kids can come out even if they haven’t ever touched a softball. They can come out and learn the game and make a difference if they make the team.”
Horizon Honors recently started a softball team for fifth and sixth graders at the elementary level, which allows the girls to grow and move up together as they get older.
For that reason, Denardo believes the Horizon Honors softball program will continue to be dominant for years to come.
“The future looks great,” Denardo said. “I have the benefit of seeing a lot of girls here at Horizon that play softball.”