The Highland Middle School softball team clinched the SIJHSAA (Southern Illinois Junior High School Athletic Association) Class L O’Fallon Regional championship last Thursday in O’Fallon.
The Lady Bullpups, who were seeded No. 1 in their pool, trounced Triad 17-3 in the semifinal on Tuesday of last week and doubled up host O’Fallon Carriel 8-4 in the regional championship last Thursday.
Against Triad, HMS pitcher Payton Wernle started the game before giving way to reliever Sam Meiner.
Triad jumped in front quickly, taking a two-run lead in its first at-bat.
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The Lady Bullpups more than answered in their first at-bat by exploding for seven runs. Lia Basden, Megan Kronk, and Carlie Mettler started the huge rally off with consecutive singles to load the bases. Autumn Walters followed up by clearing the bases with a grand slam home run. Next, Maci Pfister came up to bat and slugged a triple. Kate Feldmann and Sam Miener added hits as the inning continued on all the way back around to the top of the batting order where Basden and Kronk again got on base.
Triad scored again in the third inning, but that was the last run the Knights would muster in the game as they were unable to recover from Highland’s huge first at-bat.
Hits from Pfister, Taylor Fleming, Maddy Adolph, Kenzie Gelly and Ashley Knackstedt help make the final score of the game even more lopsided at 17-3.
While the bats won the game for Highland against Triad, it took the combination of both bats and defense to beat Carriel.
Ashley Basden was the starting pitcher and she was later relieved by Sam Miener.
The Lady Bullpups started the game with a single from Kronk, a walk from Walters and a two-run double from Pfister. Taylor Fleming then got a hit to drive home Pfister.
In the first inning, Carriel put three hitters on base, but HMS shortstop Kara Braundmeier made an excellent defensive play in the hole to hold the opposition scoreless.
In the second inning, Feldmann and Ashley Knackstedt each drove in a runner to make the score 6-3 in favor of the Lady Bullpups.
The defensive battle between the teams continued through the fifth inning. In the third inning, a Carriel error while fielding a perfectly positioned bunt allowed Nicole Knackstedt to travel all around the bases and score.
In the third and fourth innings, Carriel’s defense robbed Kronk, Mettler, Walters, and Pfister on hard-hit balls.
Three strikeouts by Meiner in the third and fourth innings greatly helped the Lady Bullpups. At the end of the fourth inning, the score remained in HMS’ favor at 6-3.
In the fifth inning, hits by Fleming, Olivia Jansen, Reagan Crask (a slap hit to knocke in two runs), Sam Miener and Lia Basden, put the Bullpups on top by an 8-4 margin.
To celebrate its victory, Highland had a police escort back in to town on Thursday night.
The Lady Bullpups will play Millstadt at Centralia’s Rotary Park at 11 a.m. this Saturday, Oct. 3. If they win on Saturday, HMS will advance to the state finals, which will also be held at Centralia’s Rotary Park on Tuesday, Oct. 6 and Thursday, Oct. 8.
The HMS Lady Bullpups are coached by Susie Kronk with assistance from Erin Smith and volunteer assistant Deanne Voegle.