TROY — Triad's Jordyn Alford didn't know that she was pitching on Monday until five minutes before game time.
Alford, subbing for injured pitcher Jenn Bailey, threw a six-hit shutout as the Knights beat the Highland Bulldogs 4-0 in a Mississippi Valley Conference softball game.
"You have to expect the unexpected, I guess," Alford said. "You just do what you have to do in that situation."
Bailey was scratched from the Knights' starting lineup due to an injury she sustained taking batting practice.
"She was doing some batting practice, and the neck went one way and the shoulders went the other," Triad coach Kris Kleeman said of Bailey, who watched the game from the Knights' dugout. "I think she might have just pulled a neck muscle. We'll have to see what it is going on there."
Alford struck out five, walked six and worked out of bases loaded jams in both the sixth and seventh innings.
"Kudos for Jordyn Alford for stepping in there and biting the bullet and being gritty and bearing through it," Kleeman said.
The Knights improved to 10-5 overall and 2-0 in the MVC. They got an early leg up on their archrival in the conference race.
"No matter how good each team is, it's always pretty close between to us," Alford said of the Highland-Triad rivalry.
The Bulldogs fell to 6-3 overall, 2-1 in the MVC. They stranded 12 runners in the game.
"I knew it was double-digits," Highland coach Sharon Schmitz said. "That's what killed us right there. You can't have that when you play against a team like Triad. You have to have those clutch hits."
The Bulldogs also got a bad break when Amanda Peterson's foot came off the third base as she was trying to stretch a double into a triple in the fourth inning.
Peterson beat the throw to third, but she was tagged out when her foot slid off the bag.
"He foot just popped off the bag," Schmitz said. "That could have changed the game right there."
The next hitter, Brooke Hug, singled.
Freshman Jenna Gnaedinger got the call on the mound for the Bulldogs. She gave up nine hits, while striking out three and walking two.
"The first couple batters, I could tell she was nervous," said of Gnaedinger, who walked Triad leadoff hitter Abigail Schroeter the first inning. "Once she got comfortable and found the zone, she was fine. She pitched a good game today."
The Knights scored all of their runs after there were two outs.
In the third inning, Alleigh Kruse doubled with one out and came home on a two-out double by Hannah Johnson.
Avery Myers followed with a double to bring home Johnson.
The bottom of the Knights' batting order produced two insurance runs in the sixth inning.
With two outs, Alford walked and Nikki Steiner singled. Then Mycala Feldman and Abby Burroughs each collected RBI singles.
"The bottom of order has been producing quite well lately," Kleeman said. "I'm not going to mess with the mojo at all. Most people try to hide 7-8-9, but I think 7-8-9 in our case are some of our strongest hitters."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.