Highland: Sports

Highland muzzles O'Fallon in softball opener for both schools

After securing the final out, Highland’s Lily Garbett celebrates the Bulldogs’ 2-0 victory over O’Fallon Panthers on Thursday.
After securing the final out, Highland’s Lily Garbett celebrates the Bulldogs’ 2-0 victory over O’Fallon Panthers on Thursday. clibbra@bnd.com

In both teams' season opener, runs were at a premium and it was the Highland Lady Bulldogs who were able to scratch across two runs to edge out the O'Fallon Panthers 2-0 Thursday.

"It was a pretty clean game for us," said Highland head coach Greg Exton said. "A lot of people contributed in this game, and that's the way you like to see it. You don't want to have to count on one or two people to get the job done every time out. It was a very good opening win."

Highland got solid pitching from senior starter Addison Rinderer and freshman reliever Sam Miener, who were backed by a defense that played an error-free game, including several clutch catches by junior right fielder Lexy Gilliam.

"It felt really good to win, and we were all pretty excited as a team, because we, obviously, lost a lot of key players last year," Gilliam said. "So, we were kind of nervous to see how the season would play out, but I think we got off to a good start."

See a photo gallery from the game here.

Offensively, Lauren Baer, banged out two hits and she and Rinderer combined for three of Highland's five total hits and teamed up to score both runs.

In the third inning, Rinderer reached on an error and scored three batters later when Baer sliced a single the opposite way to left field.

Then in the fifth inning, Rinderer set the table with smacked a leadoff single to center and Baer chased her home by pulling an infield single to the right side of the diamond.

"They make it easy on me. Those (RBIs) don't matter if they're not out there. So I just do my job and get them in," a humble Baer said. "I was just trying to get her to pitch to me, because in the first at-bat, when I got out, it was the first pitch I swung at. So, I was waiting to get deep in the count, and I guess it worked out for me. She was throwing me all outside today, so I just tried to take what she was giving me."

Highland also got one single each from junior shortstop Lily Garbett and senior first baseman Sidney Harnetiaux to total of six hits as a team.

O'Fallon also got good pitching. The Panthers worked around an error in each of the first two innings, but the Panthers' third error in the third frame proved costly. O'Fallon mustered four hits, highlighted by doubles from senior pitcher Kaitlin Moore (fifth) and sophomore second baseman Kelly Short (seventh), but the Panthers stranded five runners and had a controversial double play called against them in their final at-bat.

O'Fallon also got a single each from sophomore right fielder/pitcher Abigail Wilson and junior first baseman Caroline Keller.

"It was an overall good game, and after the first game of the season, I am happy with where we are at,," O'Fallon coach Lauren Muniz said. "It's early in the season, and we just have to settle in and get comfortable, and we just need to be outside and take reps. We were close on everything. We were close offensively, close defensively, and the chips will fall for us. We are ready to play, and we we are ready to be outside."

In her first season-opening start, Rinderer was sharp for the Bulldogs, working the first five innings She surrendered just three hits and one walk and struck out two batters.

HHS Freshman Sam Miener made her first high school appearance a memorable one, as she fired two scoreless frames to nail down the save.

"Addison did amazing. She was hitting all of her spots today ,and that really makes a difference," Baer said of Rinderer. "And then Sam came in, and she did so good for her first varsity game ever. She shut them them out, too."

Exton agreed.

"Addie did a great job for five innings, and Sam came in and closed the door," the HHS coach said of his two hurlers. "That's not too bad for a freshman walking right and getting the save in her very first game."

The busiest player on defense was Gilliam, who made six putouts and a few of them were highlight-reel catches, including a couple of over-the-shoulder snags and a couple plays on sinking screamers.

"I didn't really get a lot of playing time last year, and it was my first game coming out starting, so I just wanted to show them what I could do," Gilliam said. "And my pitchers did good, because they gave me balls that I could catch. I was pretty nervous going into the game, but Lily (Garbett) and I just got away and relaxed. Then I got out on the field and started playing catch and loosened up, and it just came to me. So I felt good."

Gilliam also deserved a much better outcome at the dish. She went 0-for-3 but hit a couple of balls on the screws.

"She plays hard," Exton said of Gilliam. "She made some great catches, and she hit two balls right on the nose but didn't get anything to show for it."