Big hits, kicks and jumps
Highland’s softball team experienced many highs and lows this spring.
But when the season ended with a heartbreaking regional semifinal loss to Jerseyville on May 22, there were a lot more “what if?” questions that left HHS feeling they should have advanced further in the postseason.
Overall, perhaps the biggest factor that forced the Lady Bulldogs to finish with a 12-12 record was tough luck losses in close games, as they lost nine games by two runs or less. Eight of those nine were gut-wrenching one-run defeats.
“At the end of the season we finished 12-12 and ended up losing eight one-run ball games out of those 12 losses. If you put those eight losses in the win column, the next thing you know you’re 19-5 and that puts a different perspective on the season,” Highland coach Glen Nicholls said. “That’s how close we were to being 19-5 instead of just 12-12.”
The Lady Bulldogs struggled early, going just 3-4 through the first two weeks. After a 10-5 nonconference loss at Alton, HHS reeled off four straight wins, including Mississippi Valley Conference wins over Waterloo (April 10), Mascoutah (April 16) and Civic Memorial (April 17).
Inclement weather worked against the Lady Bulldogs, as they had 10 games rained out.
“It was just an unfortunate spring for us as far as the rainouts were concerned,” Nicholls said.
Additionally, Highland played a strong schedule which included facing O’Fallon twice, Edwardsville, and Breese Mater Dei along with their conference foes.
“That’s the thing because we never thought we were out of any game the whole season and we felt we competed with everybody,” Nicholls said.
Just three seniors graduate, as shortstop Lilly Garbett, right fielder Lexi Gilliam and first baseman/pitcher Emily Allsman will move on.
Garbett, a four-year starter at short, led the club with a .439 batting average, eight home runs, and 28 RBI.
“Lilly was a solid four-year starter at shortstop for us,” Nicholls said. “That kid’s just a born leader — all the kids kind of gravitated around her — and she just goes out there and shows everybody how to do it.”
Gilliam played strong defense in right all season while Allsman manned first base and backed up sophomore pitcher Sam Miener, who went 7-9 with a 2.07 ERA.
Junior center Nicole Knackstedt (.324), sophomore catcher Jordyn Fields (.284), junior second baseman Taylor Fleming, and sophomore third baseman Syndey Parkerson will form a talented young nucleus that figures to improve next year after seeing extensive playing time this spring.
“The rest of them (players) they have been with the program a while, but they are finally getting a crack at playing time on the varsity level and they will make us a little bit better next year,” Nicholls said.