After bringing home hardware from O'Fallon for the last three years, it would seem that anything less would be a profound disappointment for the Aurora Houn' Dawgs. But coach James Hoffman had nothing but positive things to say about his team following the Dawgs' district semifinal loss to Hollister on Monday.
"Can’t say enough about how proud I am of what this team accomplished this year," Hoffman said in a Facebook post the following day. "They were resilient and most of all great teammates. They represented their community well and we are extremely proud of the progress they made on the field and the life lessons that they have learned. These kids overachieved all year long and it is a testament to commitment to team and community that allowed them to do that."
After two state championships, Aurora came into this season with very little left of the teams that brought home those trophies. Only Gage Singer, Ryan Cline and Jay Lee had made starts in the postseason for at least one of those teams. But the 2019 Houn' Dawgs held up the recent tradition of success better than most expected.
Aurora finished the season with an overall record of 21-6, a top seed in a difficult and competitive district, and the distinction of holding the number one ranking in Class 4 all season long, despite having to overcome injuries and sickness up and down the lineup.
Even in Monday's game, the Dawgs led hosts Hollister for much of the contest. Singer scored the game's opening run on a hit by Cline in the bottom of the first, giving Aurora the lead until the top of the fourth. The Tigers scored three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth, holding the Houn' Dawgs scoreless for the last six innings to secure the victory. Hollister would go on to fall to Springfield Catholic in the final.
Cline finished the game with two hits to lead the Dawgs, while Singer and Aaron Fisher recorded the other two hits on the game. Lee threw six innings and took the loss for Aurora, allowing four earned runs on six hits and striking out four. Singer struck out one in an inning of relief.
Much of this year's team will be back next season to try to reclaim Aurora's spot in the Final Four. Singer and Austin Hartwigsen were the team's only seniors in 2019.