After throwing a one-hitter in her high school debut, Highland freshman Kirsten Plocher somehow found way to deliver an even better encore performance on April 1 against Belleville Althoff.
Plocher (2-0) fired a no-hitter and came within a hit batsman of a perfect game in a six-inning, 11-0 shellacking of the host Crusaders.
In addition to the no-no, she struck out 10 batters and walked none en route to facing just one batter over the minimum — the hit batsman in the second inning. The freshman phenom recorded back-to-back strikeouts for the final two outs of the game to cap off her momentous feat.
“K.P. (Kirsten Plocher) was on again today,” said Highland coach Brittne Zobrist, whose team improved to a perfect 5-0 in her first season at the helm. “Every time we put her on the mound, we know she will do great. She continues to hit her spots with the fastball and keeps the ball on the ground for our defense to make plays.”
Highland’s defense played another error-free game while the offense rattled off 12 hits, highlighted by three doubles.
It was another good day at the plate for HHS junior Lauren Wright, who went 2-for-3 with a double, one RBI and two runs scored.
Additionally, Plocher helped herself by collecting two hits, one RBI and one run, while sophomores Aubrey Hacke and Hannah Miener each added a double and one run, and freshman Hannah Sullens had a hit and scored twice.
The Lady Bulldog offense really came to life in the third inning, exploding for seven runs. The onslaught got started with three successive singles to lead off from Megan Frey, Jillian Garbett and Riley Kassay.
Runs then paraded to home plate to score on a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly from Plocher, a two-run double from Miener, an RBI double from Wright and two passed balls..
“We got the bats going in the third inning and then continued to play our game,” Zobrist said. “We played solid defense today. That’s what I expect out of these girls every day. To come out battle in the box, put runs on the board and for our pitching and defense to take over. This is a solid team all around.”
Highland got two-run rallies in each of the fourth and sixth innings. In the fourth, Plocher knocked in a run with a single and Ploches’s courtesy runner, freshman Kourtney Zobrist, scored on a wild pitch.
HHS increased its lead with two runs in the sixth, which ultimately ended the game an inning early. Plocher singled to lead off the frame and later scored on a Miener’s sacrifice fly. That was followed up by three consecutive singles from Wrigiht, Zobrist and Sullens, who kncoked in Wright for the game’s final tally.
Highland 4, Mater Dei 3
Mater Dei was never able to get over the hump after falling behind the Lady Bulldogs by three runs at 4-1 in the fifth inning.
Highland scored one run in each of the first, third, fourth and fifth frames in the game played on March 31 at HHS.
Mater Dei scored once in the top of the third and two in the fifth to make it a one-run game, but they would get no closer as the Lady Bulldogs fended off the Knights late.
Plocher came in to relieve sophomore starter Jenna Gnaedinger in the sixth and recorded the final six outs, two via strikeout, to slam the door on the Knights to earn her first high school save.
Gnaedinger recorded the win for the Lady Bulldogs to improve to 2-0. She allowed three runs only one earned) over five innings. She struck out one, walked one and scattered five hits.
Richter took the loss for Mater Dei despite pitching well. She pitched all six innings, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and four walks while striking out two.
Kassay led HHS’ offensive threat, as she got on base twice and scored three times. Peyton Holzinger added two hits for the Lady Bulldogs.
Mater Dei was led by Sydney Engelhart and Shannon Schuetz with two hits apiece.
The bottom of the first saw HHS take an early 1-0 lead on Miener’s run-scoring single to plate Kassay, who drew a leadoff walk.
The Lady Bulldogs went up for good in the third, scoring one run as Kassay reached second on a leadoff error, advanced to third on Gnaedinger’s fly out to right, and scored on senior Mallory Rutz’s ground out.
In the fourth, Highland tacked on an insurance run on an RBI double by Frey to score sophomore Sierra Huelsmann to go up by a pair of runs at 3-1.
HHS tallied its final run in the fifth to make it a 4-1 advantage as Kassay coaxed a leadoff walk, stole second, went to third on a ground out, and scored on sophomore Aubrey Hacke’s RBI single to center.
Mater Dei scored two runs in the sixth on an RBI double by Emmeryn Wheelen and an RBI ground out by Kelsey Gerdes to pull within a single run.
However, Mater Dei could not draw even.
“That was a little closer than I would have hoped for,” coach Zobrist said. “Jenna was pitching fine, but she is more of a fly ball pitcher, and Kirsten is more of a ground ball pitcher, and we couldn’t really afford anymore fly balls. Jenna pitched great, but it was just time to make a change.”
Zobrist said her team seems to be doing the right things at the right time, like Highland right-fielder Huelsmann ending the top of the fifth by gunning down Eliese Rainey at home plate trying to score from second base on Schuetz’s single.
“It’s about timely hits, and we seemed to do that today,” Zobrist said. “We had runners in scoring position a few times, and we still put people across the plate. And we’ve got our outfield arms. That’s why Sierra is in right field. She’s got the cannon.”