Highland News Leader
Highland’s softball team was cruising for four innings Wednesday at Alton.
Then in the fifth and sixth innings, the host Redbirds turned the tables and the Lady Bulldogs were left wondering what if.
Abby Sullivan ripped a three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth and Tami Wong added a two-run single in the sixth as Alton overcame a 5-0 deficit to prevail 10-5.
It was a frustrating end to what started off as a productive day for Highland (3-4), which was rolling after scoring five runs in the first three innings thanks to a four-run third against Alton starter Abby Syoc.
“The first thing I said to the girls (after the game) was they never should have got the first four (runs) and if we don’t allow those four runs, it’s a different ballgame,” Highland coach Glen Nicholls said. “Without that, it’s not a 10-5 game and because of that it ended up looking like a bit of blowout which it wasn’t.”
For Alton (8-2) it was a nice comeback win a night after knocking off Southwestern Conference rival Belleville East.
The Redbirds overcame four errors thanks to big offensive days from Sullivan, who had three hits with four RBI, and Wong, who was 3-for-4 with three RBI and three runs scored.
“We had a big win against Belleville East last night and I think we started a little flat, but once we got in a groove we did a nice job,” Alton coach Dan Carter said. “They (Highland) have got a good ballclub over there and they hit the ball well today and they pitched well.”
Highland went ahead 1-0 in the second and then busted loose for four runs against Syoc the next inning. Sydney Parkerson, Lilly Garbett, and Jordan Fields struck for RBI hits, fueling the third inning rally. Fields finished 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored. Parkerson was 2-for-2 with a walk, a double, and a run scored.
In the bottom of the third, Alton answered. Wong and Sullivan singled home runs and then with two out and two on, Ashlyn Betz slapped a two-run single to center, cutting the lead to 5-4.
The Lady Bulldogs — who finished with 10 hits — then stranded runners in the fourth and fifth innings. Those missed chances proved costly.
Alyson Haegele walked leading off and Wong singled, bringing up Sullivan. After taking a strike from Highland sophomore pitcher Sam Miener, Sullivan faked a bunt and then pulled back and smacked a belt-high pitch through the wind for a three-run home run and a 7-5 lead.
“I couldn’t get it (the bunt) down, and so he (Carter) gave me the hit away sign and it was waist-high down the middle and I got it,” Sullivan said. “It’s amazing, but I couldn’t have done it without the girls getting on base and my dugout cheering me.”
“That was a big one for us to take the lead and then we were able to stack a few more (runs) on after that and have a little cushion,” Carter said.
Alton added three insurance runs in the sixth, keyed by Wong’s two-run hit.
Highland’s Taylor Fleming doubled to start the top of the seventh, but Haegele, who relieved Syoc in the sixth, retired the next three hitters.
“It’s a tough loss,” Nicholls said, “The score says 10-5 but it wasn’t a 10-5 game and these guys are a bigger school and we’re a smaller school but we feel we’re good enough to play with them.”
Syoc pitched five innings, struck out five, gave up five runs — one earned — struck out five and walked one for the win.
Miener pitched six innings, struck out seven and walked four as she took the loss.