By Ben Stroup

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Delaware Hayes ace Madi Huck had a monster season this spring … and was recognized for it in a big way earlier this week.

In its 31st year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, announced Huck as its 2015-16 Gatorade Ohio Softball Player of the Year. Huck is the first Gatorade Ohio Softball Player of the Year to be chosen from Hayes High School.

“I’m very excited for Madi,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “Madi worked very hard in the off-season, not only on pitching, but especially defense … she is well deserving of this award.”

The 5-foot-9 senior right-handed pitcher posted a 23-1 record in the circle with a 0.50 ERA, 230 strikeouts and just 27 walks in 140 innings, leading the Pacers (23-1) to the Division I district semifinals this past season. A First Team All-State selection, she hurled six no hitters.

She was no slouch at the plate, either, batting .556 with 13 home runs and 51 RBI.

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Huck as Ohio’s best high school softball player.

Huck maintained a 4.01 GPA in the classroom. A member of the yearbook staff, she has been a contributing writer for her school newspaper and has volunteered locally as a tutor for students with special needs in addition to donating her time as a youth softball coach.

“Madi is an outstanding pitcher and has been the primary reason behind her team’s success over the last four years,” Big Walnut head coach Jeff Hatfield said. “Her competitiveness, sportsmanship and leadership qualities have made her an excellent ambassador for Ohio high school softball.”

Huck has signed a National Letter of Intent to play softball on scholarship at Kent State University this fall.

She’ll be missed at Hayes, but has brought some notoriety that will stick around for years to come. Hayes was ranked No. 1 in the state for a stretch this season.

“We have been a really good softball program for many years now, and a lot of high schools around the state know about us, but now, having Madi win this award, everyone in the country will know about Delaware Hayes softball,” Thomas said. “This award means a lot to the program because Madi isn’t just the first softball player to win the award at Hayes, she’s the only athlete from Hayes to ever win it.”

Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year award announced in June, Huck joins an elite alumni association of past state award-winners in 12 sports, including Alicia Hollowell (2000-01, Fairfield HS, Calif.), Derek Jeter (1991-92, Kalamazoo HS, Mich.), Candace Parker (2001-02, Naperville Central HS, Ill.), Abby Wambach (1997-98, Our Lady of Mercy, N.Y.), Mark Sanchez (2004-05, Mission Viejo HS, Calif.), Angela Tincher (2002-03, James River HS, Va.) and Kenzie Fowler (2006-07, Canyon del Oro HS, Ariz.).

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Huck joins recent Gatorade Ohio Softball Players of the Year Tara Trainer (2014-15, Lebanon High School), Taran Alvelo (2013-14, Bloom-Carroll High School), Jenna Lilley (2012-13, Hoover High School), Kenzie Conrad (2011-12, Keystone High School), Erin Gabriel,(2010-11 & 2009-10, Poland Seminary High School), Tess Sito (2008-09 & 2007–08, Elyria High School), and Jessica Simpson, (2006-07, Hoover High School) on the state’s list of former award winners.

John Manzo contributed to this report.

Hayes’ Madi Huck fires a pitch toward home plate during a game earlier this season.’ Madi Huck fires a pitch toward home plate during a game earlier this season.