Highland softball Lady Bulldogs received an ace performance from junior Jenna Gnaedinger making a rare start en route to cracking the visiting Roxana Shells 8-0 in a non-conference game on Tuesday at HHS to score its fourth win in a row.
The day before, Highland scored eight runs in the first inning off Civic Memorial with a 12-3 thumping of the host Eagles Monday in a conference tilt at the Bethalto Sports Complex.
Before the latest winning streak, Highland had a four-game winning streak snapped on Tuesday of last week after being upset by host Waterloo 4-3 in eight innings.
The HHS Bulldogs bounced back the next day to beat visiting Mascoutah 4-1 and score their first conference win of the season.
Then, last Thursday, Highland scored its biggest win of the season with a 6-5 victory in nine innings over visiting Gillespie.
With the two wins in as many days on Monday and Tuesday, the Bulldogs have won eight of their nine games to boost their overall record to 10-3. The win over CM lifted Highland’s Mississippi Valley Conference ledger to 2-1. Wednesday’s scheduled MVC game at Triad was rained out and will be made up.
Highland 8, Roxana 0
Highland junior pitcher Jenna Gnaedinger has not been used much on the mound this spring, but if there was any rust, it sure was not evident by the ace performance she gave in an 8-0 shellacking of visiting Roxana on Tuesday at HHS.
Gnaedinger fired a complete-game one-hit shutout to pave the way for an easy victory for the Lady Bulldogs, who won their fourth in a row to reach double digits in victories at 10-3.
Gnaedinger (1-0) walked five but she easily made up for that by striking out a lucky number for her at 13 batters. She punched out the side in the second and sixth innings and whiffed two in each of the fourth and seventh frames.
“It felt good to get a win,” Gnaedinger said. “The inside corner was my hot spot yesterday and I went there a lot to get strikes. My movement pitches were all doing what they were supposed to and my arm felt great!”
Although she did not need it, Gnaedinger received plenty of run support as Highland pounded out 10 hits and sandwiched crooked-number innings in the third (four runs) and fifth (two) innings between a single tally in each of the second and sixth frames.
Juniors Aubrey Hacke and Peyton Holzinger provided multiple-hit games. Hacke went 3-for-4 and knocked in a pair and scored a pair, while Holzinger was a perfect 2-for-2 with one RBI.
The only run of support Gnaedinger would ultimately need came in the second when junior Hannah Miener doubled, moved over to third base on a wild pitch, and scored on a sacrifice fly from Holzinger.
The Bulldogs piled on four more runs in the third to increase the margin up to 5-0. Hacke got it going with an run-scoring single to center, freshman Lily Garbett followed with a double to left to plate senior Lauren Wright (walk) and sophomore Lauren Baer capped the rally off with a two-run single to center to drive in Hacke and Garbett.
Three errors helped Highland add its final three tallies.
Highland 12, Civic Memorial 3
In the game’s opening at-bat, the Bulldogs greeted Eagle pitcher Ryan Allison rudely, parading 12 hitters to the plate and exploding for eight runs on seven hits and three errors.
Highland’s first five batters reached safely on four consecutive singles from senior Lauren Wright, junior Aubrey Hacke, freshman Lily Garbett and sophomore Lauren Baer, which drove in Wright for the game’s first run. Junior Hannah Miener followed by belting a two-run double to make it 3-0.
After the first out, CM kicked the ball three straight times, which allowed HHS to score three more runs and balloon the lead to 6-0 before Wright and Hacke closed out the huge uprising with back-to-back RBI singles.
To lead off the top of the second, Baer yanked a home run over the fence in right field to bring an end to Allison’s day after she recorded just three outs. However, Allison’s day could not end soon enough as she had already been flogged for nine runs (four earned).
Baer went a perfect 3-for-3 and the roundtripper was her second of the season.
“Last time we faced a slow pitcher, some of us, including myself, struggled a bit, but today my timing just clicked, and I found a stroke that worked,” Baer said. “Once the first three or four of us got on base everyone else kept the rally going. It was one of the best starts we have had.”
Wright, Hacke and junior Reily Kassay all collected two hits apiece.
Highland sophomore pitcher Kirsten Plocher was the beneficiary of the gluttony of run support as she improved her unblemished record to 5-0 after allowing two earned runs (three overall), seven hits and three walks while whiffing six.
The Bulldogs capped off the scoring with one run in the fifth followed by a pair of tallies in the sixth.
In the fifth, Highland used two more CM errors along with a stolen base (sophomore Addison Rinderer) and a passed ball.
In the sixth, sophomore Hannah Sullens singled home fellow sophomore Gabi Berolatti (walk) and Sullens eventually came around to score on another Eagle error.
Highland 6, Gillespie 5 (9 innings)
The Bulldogs nailed down their biggest win of the season by solving Gillespie standout pitcher Addison Bryant, who came into the game with a 13-1 record and a miniscule ERA of 0.96.
Wright set the table by ripping a leadoff triple the other way to right field. After one out, Lily Garbett followed by drilling the game-winning hit off the fence in left on the second pitch to allow Wright to touch home plate with the walk-off tally.
“We knew they had a real quality pitcher,” Highland first-year coach Greg Exton said. “We told our girls before the game, ‘Don’t wait. Go up there swinging. If you get behind, she’s going to be that much better.’ ”
Garbett heeded the advice very well in the ninth.
“That pitcher was really good, and we just came out ready for her,” Garbett said.
With her last at-bat, Wright showed her veteran leadership to set the table for Garbett’s walk-off heroics.
“I’d seen most of her pitches earlier in the game, so I was feeling more confident and knew it was time to step up,” she said. “Lily’s hit was incredible and so timely. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”
Lily Garbett’s walk-off hit put an en end to a 2-hour, 11-minute see-saw battle that saw several lead changes and ups and downs.
Gillespie (17-3) scored three times in the fifth with the help of two Highland errors to take what seemed like a safe 5-3 lead at that point.
But the Bulldogs rallied with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to deadlock the game at 5-5 after sophomore Addison Rinderer tagged a two-out, two-run triple the opposite way to the gap in left-center to tie the game.
Garbett, Rinderer and Baer combined for six hits and six RBIs, including four extra-base hits, with Rinderer connecting for two of them.
Gillespie had chances to go ahead in the seventh, eighth and ninth, but junior lefty Aubrey Hacke was able to dance out of all three potentially dangerous situations. She faced a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh, but rallied from a 3-0 count to record two successive outs.
Hacke (3-3) wriggled out of 12 tough situations for the Highland Bulldogs. She pitched nine innings and allowed three earned runs on eight hits. Hacke faced her most difficult moment in the seventh inning.
The Miners, who were riding a seven-game winning streak, stranded nine runners and went 0 for their last 8 with runners in scoring position.
Lily Garbett, Rinderer and Lauren Baer had two hits each. Baer’s two-run triple in the third put the hosts up 3-2.
Gillespie sophomore catcher Mackenzie Kasarda had three hits and reached base four times. Rylee Sarti, Rylee Jarman and Sydney Henrichs supplied RBI hits for the Miners.
Trailing 2-0, Highland put together a three-run third to claim its first lead of the game. Garbett hit a sacrifice fly, and Baer crunched a two-run triple the other way to left to give the Bulldogs the lead at 3-2.
The Bulldogs banged out nine hits against Bryant, who gave up six earned runs in 8 1/3 innings — the most she has yielded since giving up seven runs against Triad on April 1, 2015.
“Going into the game, we knew she was going to be one of the best pitchers we would see, and that Gillespie had only lost one game,” Baer said. “We wanted to be the second team to beat them, so our mindset was in a ‘challenge accepted’ mode. We knew she had a wicked rise ball and a decent change-up. So in the box, we knew we had to jump on the first fastball we got... It was a total team effort. We were all smiles after that one.”
Highland 4, Mascoutah 1
Three first-inning runs were enough as Plocher made them hold up, although it got a bit hairy in the top of the seventh.
Plocher ended up going the distance and permitting just one earned run two hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
But she had her feet to fire in the top of the seventh when the Indians loaded the bases with no one out after back-to-back errors and a hit batsman.
But Plocher wiggled out of the jam unscathed. Catcher Jill Garbett helped big time by stealing an out, picking Kennedy Bryant off third base. Plocher then got a strike and a line out to Baer in left field to preserve the team’s first conference win of the year.
The Bulldogs scored the game-deciding trio in the first. Wright drew a leadoff walk and later came home to score the game’s initial run on a steal of home plate on a double steal with Lily Garbett. Baer followed by slicing a double the opposite way to left to plate Lily Garbett (single). Then after the second out, Miener pulled a double to left to change places with Baer and increase the lead to 3-0.
After Mascoutah got its only run in the third on Katie Perkins’ RBI single to score Sanders (walk), Highland got it back in the fifth as Kassay singled, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch, and scored on an RBI ground out by Wright.
Lily Garbett and Perkins shared game-high honors with two hits apiece.
Waterloo 4, Highland 3 (8 innings)
With the help of a crucial Highland error, Waterloo scored the winning run in the first extra inning to spoil the conference opener for HHS, as well as spoil the third quality start from Hacke this spring.
Another costly Highland error in the third inning made it official. HHS had squandered a 3-0 lead in just an inning and half as it allowed Waterloo to score the tying run in the bottom of the third. Hacke was able to work around a second error in that frame as she retired the final two batters in order, the last one via strikeout swinging.
Hacke took the loss despite pitching well enough to win. She allowed just two earned runs (four overall) on seven hits and one walk while fanning six in 7 1/3 innings.
Hacke and Wright also had perfect days at the dish after both went 4-for-4. The rest of the team mustered only three hits combined.
Wright, who also drew Highland’s lone walk in the game to reach base in all five plate appearances, and Hacke were both instrumental in HHS’ three-run second. Wright spanked a two-run double to left field and then came around to score on Hacke’s RBI single to right.
Hacke also had one double, as did Baer.
Miener and Jill Garbett each joined Baer with one hit for Highland, which left 10 runners on base.