After suffering their first loss of the season Tuesday, May 9 in a 4-1 home defeat to Waterloo, the Highland softball Lady Bulldogs wasted no time getting back on the winning track as just 24 hours later when they mauled the visiting Jerseyville Panthers 11-1 in six innings. Highland followed that up with a 2-0 win over the visiting Mascoutah Indians on Friday to capture the Mississippi Valley Conference championship.
The Bulldogs finished the conference season with an impressive 9-1 record.
“It feels amazing. This season has manifested so many great things, and I believe there is much more in store for this special team,” said senior ace and University of Nebraska Omaha recruit Aubrey Hacke, who followed a three-hit performance in the win over Jerseyville with her third one-hitter of the season in the 2-0 shutout of Mascoutah. “Our bats weren’t as hot tonight (Friday against Mascoutah), but we played solid defense to hold onto our lead and win the game. Hannah (Miener) suffered an injury (to her knee), which caused some changes to the defense and lineup, but we responded well and kept our heads in the game.”
Highland went on to split a doubleheader with Centralia on Saturday. After dropping the opener 4-1, HHS rebounded to take the second game of the twin bill, 7-4.
Highland (25-2) earned the No. 1 seed in Sub-sectional A of the IHSA Class 3A Columbia Sectional and will host a regional. The Bulldogs will first play host to the quarterfinal winner between No. 8 Civic Memorial and No. 10 East St. Louis in the semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 23.
The other semifinal pits No. 4 Triad against No. 6 Jerseyville at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 24. The Bulldogs have already went 6-0 against Triad, Jerseyville and CM this season.
The championship game is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, May 27.
Highland 7 Centralia 4
Junior lefty Addison Rinderer stayed perfect in the circle as she won both of her starts this season to improve to 2-0. She gave up 10 hits, but she went the distance and limited the damage after allowing four earned runs.
Offensively, Hacke, sophomore shortstop Lily Garbett, junior catcher Lauren Baer and junior left fielder Kourtney Zobrist all collected multiple hits.
Hacke and Garbett each went 3-for-4 and scored two runs. Garbett also knocked in a run with a single in the fourth inning.
Baer and Zobrist each supplied two hits.
Baer topped all hitters with four runs driven in, three of which came on a three-run homer to center field in the third inning to stake HHS to a 6-0 lead. It was Baer’s sixth homer of the season, which moved her into a tie atop the team standings with Miener and Garbett. Baer, who also smacked an RBI single in the first inning, also leads Highland with 29 RBIs.
The Bulldogs also took advantage of four Orphan errors to score two unearned runs.
For Centralia, Chloe Wendling, Laynee Timmons, Kennedy Henson and Allie Fults all had two hits apiece, with Wendling also leading the way with a home run, a triple, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Centralia 4 Highland 1
Wendling hit a game-breaking three-run homer to left off HHS junior right-hander Kirsten Plocher, which proved to be the difference in the game.
Plocher (9-2) pitched well with nine strikeouts, but Wendling’s drive sent her to her second consecutive defeat after a 9-0 start to the season.
The Bulldogs only mustered four hits and one earned run off Wendling, who also walked none.
Hacke provided two of Highland’s hits and Rinderer and Zobrist had one each.
HHS scored first in the third but only with the help of back-to-back Orphan errors.
Centralia quickly tied it up in the top of the fourth on a run-scoring single by Taylor Henson.
Highland 2 Mascoutah 0
Hacke flirted with her third no-hitter, but Amber Elbe’s one-out, seventh-inning single forced Hacke to settle for her outstanding third one-hitter of the campaign.
Hacke also only permitted two walks and one hit batsman while she kept her record spotless at 14-0 and dipped her ERA to a season-low 1.05. She has only surrendered 14 earned runs, 44 hits, 22 walks while whiffing 102 in 93 2/3 innings.
Hacke and Rinderer each went 2-for-3. The duo teamed up to account for Highland’s second run in the home half of the fifth. Rinderer hit a one-out single and two batters later, Hacke smoked a RBI double to left to chase Rinderer home.
Senior second baseman scored the Bulldogs’ first run in the second when she walked and later scored on a double play.
Highland 11 Jerseyville 1
A day after suffering their first loss, the Bulldogs took out their frustration on visiting Jerseyville, banging out 14 hits and scoring in their final four at-bats to short-game the Panthers for the second time this season.
Highland put the game away with a five-run third, and followed it up with a two-run fourth, a single tally in the fifth, and finished the short game off with a four-run sixth.
Hacke had another sterling outing as she yielded only the one run and three hits while walking none and punching out seven.
Garbett, Kassay and Hacke all pounded out three hits apiece, with Garbett also homering and scoring three times and Kassay doubling, scoring twice and knocking in a pair.
Also for Highland, Rinderer homered while Baer and Sullens each drove in a pair of runs.
Big hits in the fourth were a double by Hacke, an RBI single by Baer and a two-run single by Kassay.
Rinderer greeted the fourth with a solo bomb to center field for her third long ball of the season. Three batters later, Garbett socked a two-out solo shot to center to move into a tie with Miener atop the team standings with six dingers and extend the lead to 7-0.
In the fifth, Kassay cranked a double to center and sophomore Autumn Walters chased her home with a two-out single to left.
Highland closed the game out in the sixth with four runs on two hits, two errors and a passed ball. Sullens pulled a walk-off two-run single to right to end the game an inning early.
Waterloo 4 Highland 1
On Tuesday, May 9, HHS had by far its worst overall performance of the season. Highland struggled to put good at-bats together while also committing four errors, two of which directly helped Waterloo ultimately win the game.
And at the plate, HHS hit too many pop-up outs and committed four double plays.
The game was scoreless until the top of the seventh when Waterloo scored all four of its runs, three of which were unearned because they came from gifts in the form of two HHS errors.
Highland was only able to get one run in the bottom half on a RBI single by Kassay, who redeemed herself somewhat for committing two errors in the game and bunting into a costly double play.
Plocher suffered the tough-luck loss after going the distance and allowing just the one earned run (four overall) on five hits and four walks while fanning seven.
Hacke and Holzinger each had two hits to provide half of Highland’s total of eight hits.
Highland 12 Triad 0
Hacke, who’s already thrown two no-hitters this season, was perfect through 5 1/3 innings in an 11-0 short-game win over Triad on Monday.
She struck out six and walked none while allowing just two batted balls beyond the infield before Knights sophomore Kailey Daniel put the only smudge on another sterling pitching performance with a one-out single in the sixth inning.
Hacke had a big day at the dish, too, first driving an RBI double off the top of the fence in right center field, then belting her first home run of the season with two outs in the sixth.
The game’s outcome was academic by the point, however. Highland scored two runs in the second, four in the fourth and got a solo home run in the fifth from junior Lauren Baer. Hacke’s home run sparked the rally that stopped the game short of a full seven innings.
That was more than enough support for Hacke, who has allowed just 14 earned runs in 80 innings this season.
The Bulldogs’ lineup produced 12 hits in all, including a RBI double by Lily Garbett and a pair of RBI singles by Peyton Holzinger, who went a perfect 2-for-2 and also walked twice and scored twice. Baer added two hits, including a solo homer in a four-run fourth, to go along with a pair of RBIs and one walk. Designated player Sidney Harnetiaux, hitting out of the No. 9 spot, had two hits, including a double, and four RBIs.