When Melinda Antonson took the Irondale softball coaching job five years ago, she was told the Knights had never won a North Suburban Conference championship.

This season changed all that.

Tough defense and emerging hitting pushed the Knights (15-5) to the top. They hope to continue their run in the postseason.

Irondale, the No. 5 seed in Class 3A, Section 5, got off to a good start Monday with a 6-4 victory over No. 12 seed Osseo.

Irondale's success owes to youthful vigor and veteran savvy. Four seniors and three freshmen typically start games, led by ninth-grader Maggie Schley in the pitching circle. She won 11 of her 14 starts this season.

Antonson said a "rock-solid" infield backs up Schley. Second baseman Carly Eichten and shortstop Veronica Wold make the Knights particularly strong up the middle. Wold, a sophomore who started last season, leads the team with a batting average above .400 while making only two errors.

Senior Hallie Schley anchors the outfield from her spot in center field. Freshmen Brittney Frenette (left field) and Delaney Kohler (right field) hold down the corner spots.

"We had a stretch this season where we didn't commit an error for five games," Antonson said.

Antonson said the bats got going on May 12 in a 8-0 rout of South St. Paul, a team that beat powerful North St. Paul one day earlier.