The Highland High School softball team went 2-4 in a tough stretch of games that featured some of the area’s top competition
First, on Tuesday of last week, the Lady Bulldogs were upset by visiting Jerseyville 5-3.
The next day at home, Highland was blanked by still-unbeaten Waterloo, 4-0.
Despite losing its final two Mississippi Valley Conference games, HHS still finished in a tie with Triad for second place in the conference standings at 6-4.
Waterloo ran the table to win the MVC with a spotless 10-0 and was still undefeated overall at press time at 31-0.
Last Thursday, the Lady Bulldogs snapped the two-game slide with a convincing 6-1 victory over visiting Breese Central.
Then on Saturday, Highland traveled to Centralia and split a doubleheader with the Orphans, taking the first game 3-0 before dropping the nightcap 4-3.
Finally on Monday, HHS hosted perennial power Edwardsville and endured a 7-2 setback to the 23-3 Lady Tigers.
After a scheduled doubleheader at Taylorville today and hosting Collinsville Friday to wrap up the regular season, the Lady Bulldogs (19-8) will begin the postseason on Tuesday, May 26 as the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A Civic Memorial Regional to be held at Bethalto Sports Complex.
At 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Highland will take on the winner of Monday’s quarterfinal/play-in game between No. 4 Jerseyville and No. 5 CM.
The second semifinal pits second-seeded Triad against third-seeded Alton Marquette.
On receiving the regional’s top seed, HHS coach Brittne Zobrist said, “The girls have worked hard to earn that, but we have to go in ready to play. Anybody can beat anybody.”
Edwardsville 7, HHS 2
The game’s first and last lead change went to the Tigers, thanks to a first inning rally that saw three runs cross the plate.
Edwardsville tacked on another three runs in the fifth to take total command at 6-0.
Kallen Loveless was strong en route to recording the win for the Tigers. She allowed two runs, five hits and one walk over seven innings, while striking out five.
HHS sophomore Aubrey Hacke took the loss for HHS, surrendering seven runs, but just one earned, on eight hits in seven innings. She walked two and struck out two.
The Lady Bulldogs did not do themselves any favors with six errors.
Highland sophomore Hannah Miener did her part, going 2-for-3 with a triple and one RBI.
Miener’s first hit was a leadoff triple in the third, but she was unfortunately left stranded.
Miener drove in the Lady Bulldogs’ second run in the sixth inning with a single to left field to score senior Mallory Rutz, who drew a one-out walk and advanced two bases on back-to-back singles from Hacke and classmate Peyton Holzinger.
Three of Highland’s five total hits came in the sixth.
Also, junior Lauren Wright socked a leadoff triple in the fifth and scored a run on sophomore Megan Frey’s ground out. Wright was actually tagged out at home plate but the umpire ruled Wright safe because he said Edwardsville catcher Taryn Brown had blocked Wright’s path to the plate.
In the first, the Tigers scored their three runs on a walk, two errors and an RBI double by Rachel Anderson.
In the fifth, Edwardsville’s three runs came home on an error, a sacrifice fly from Loveless and a run-scoring double by Mackenzie Marshall.
After Wright crossed home plate with Highland’s first run in the home half of the fifth, the Tigers answered back with their final run in the top half of the ensuing inning with the help of another HHS error.
Centralia 4, HHS 3
Highland lost the game despite outhitting the Orphans 9-6 and getting solid relief pitching from freshman Addison Rinderer to go along with a strong defensive effort.
“In the second game, we played our game and had some really nice defensive plays,” said Zobrist. “Centralia had a couple of girls put a hard hit on the ball that carried over the fence, but other than that our pitching was good. Addy (Rinderer) came in and shut them down. Our offense was right there, producing (nine) hits and we battled back in the seventh to put the tying and go-ahead runs on. Centralia just sealed the deal with their defense at the end.”
Jenna Gnaedinger was charged with the loss after yielding four runs (three earned) on four hits in 2 1/3 innings of work. Gnaedinger walked none and struck out one.
Sydney Hoerchler and Sammy Cameron teamed up for a pair of two-run homers off Gnaedinger.
Hoerchler’s walloped hers in the first to put the Orphans on top for good at 2-0.
Cameron followed by cranking her two-run shot in the third to put the Orphans up 4-0.
Centralia had no answer for Rinderer as the Orphans scored no runs and managed just two hits off of Rinderer, who walked only one and struck out three during her 3 2/3 innings of stout service.
Chloe Wendling got the win for Centralia. She allowed three runs over seven innings. Wendling struck out six, walked none and scattered nine hits.
Wright, sophomore Reily Kassay and sophomore Jillian Garbett led Highland’s offense with two hits apiece.
Miener smacked an RBI double in the fourth to christen the scoreboard for HHS.
Highland rallied in the seventh, pushing across two runs on Wright’s two-run double to plate Kassay (single) and Rutz (single) to cut the deficit to 4-3.
But Wendling got sophomore Peyton Holzinger to ground out to end the game.
“I was proud of the way the girls played all day,” Zobrist said. “We battled through the field conditions and never gave up in the second game after going down four runs pretty early. We really showed some fight today.”
HHS 3, Centralia 0
Zobrist said the first the first game was interesting because the field conditions were not ideal.
“It was a bit wet but the girls battled through it and came out with a W,” she said. “Aub (Aubrey Hacke) looked solid on the mound and really kept their hitters off-balance. The defense played great like usual and we had key hits to get us a the win.”
Hacke kept Centralia off the scoreboard for all seven innings she was on the rubber. She pitched a shutout, conceding only six hits while ringing up two.
Both Highland and the Orphans put runners aboard on Saturday, but it was HHS that was able to take more advantage to pull out the win despite being slightly outhit at 6-5.
Hacke left Centralia frustrated after the Orphans stranded eight runners on base.
The Lady Bulldogs scratched across the only run they really needed in the third when Kassay singled to lead off, stole third, went to third on an error on the catcher and scored when Rutz reached on an error.
Highland tacked on two insurance runs in the sixth on freshman Gabi Berolatti’s two-run single with two outs to right to chase home Holzinger (single) and freshman Lauren Baer (single).
Wright also had a single in the third.
HHS 6, Breese Central 1
Highland collected eight hits and scored one run in each of the first two frames and then pushed across two in each of the fifth and sixth innings.
Highland won thanks in large part to the play of Rutz and Gnaedinger, who both played a huge role in the win.
Rutz banged out a triple, a double and scored three times while also knocking in one run.
Rutz singled and scored the tying run in the first inning, tripled and scored in the fifth, and doubled home Kassay (single) in the sixth inning and then scored her team’s final run on Holzinger’s single.
Holzinger finished with a pair of RBIs.
Gnaedinger was dominant iu going the distance, punching out seven while giving up just one run in the first inning before putting a muzzle on the Cougars over the final six frames. For the game, she yielded just five hits and two walks.
“My curveball was working really good, my changeup got a few batters out and my inside fastball worked really good,” Gnaedinger said. “The outfield was amazing. We had two tough losses (Jerseyville and Waterloo) which I feel like brought some of us downm and I feel like this will help us out.”
Kaylee Schrand got the loss after allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks in six innings. She struck out five.
The first inning saw Breese Central High School score its only run on the day on an RBI double by Courtney Fisher.
Waterloo 4, HHS 0
Just like the first time the two teams met, Waterloo waited for its chance and pounced in rallying for four runs in the sixth and lock up the MVC crown and remain perfect on the season.
At press time, Waterloo was still an unblemished 31-0.
Sophomore shortstop Taylor Augustine opened the frame with a walk and scored on Emelia Modglin’s double into right-center field. It gave Waterloo a 1-0 lead.
WHS was not done there, tacking on a few more runs for good measure. Modglin scored on a single by sophomore Erica Schaab, who would eventually score when Kaitlyn Storm reached on an error. Senior pitcher Kasey Bradley capped off the outburst with a single up the middle to push the lead to 4-0.
“I did feel good, but the (leadoff) walk didn’t help out,” Plocher said. “I was proud for five (innings). Up to that point, I was getting pretty comfortable, and that was probably the reason it happened — I was getting a little bit too comfortable. Maybe I should have kept it a little tighter. My fastball and changeup were good and my drop ball was there. That’s pretty much all used, mostly.
“But I want to give credit to their pitcher, (Bradley), she is really good.”
Bradley went the distance for Waterloo. She fanned six and allowed only one hit — an infield single to Highland senior Mallory Rutz with one out in the sixth.
At press time, Bradley was 21-0 with a 1.18 ERA and has 156 strikeouts in 137 innings.
“They got a couple of balls to bounce their way. It happens,” Zobrist said. “The girls played well. The defense was pretty good. Their pitcher is good. You have to tip your cap. She’s a good pitcher. I’m pretty proud of how they battled a good team.”
Jerseyville 5, HHS 3
Jerseyville took advantage of a sluggish Highland team out of the gate and scored three runs in the top of the first.
The Panthers were sparked by Mackenzie Thurston and Caitlin Connel, who teamed up for four hits and five RBIs.
Jerseyville’s trio of runs in the first were scored on an RBI single from Thurston and a two-run triple by Connel.
Hacke ended up on the wrong side of the pitching decision after being charged for five earned runs on eight hits and one walk in 4 2/3 innings. She whiffed five.
Gnaedinger was effective in relief, yielding no runs on three hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Bethany Muenstermann got it done in the circle for the Panthers on the way to the win. She went the distance and allowed three runs on four walks and two hits.
After Jerseyville’s three-run first, Rutz coaxed a leadoff walk and came all the way around to score when Hacke reached on an error on a sacrifice.
The Panthers pushed their lead to 5-1 in the fifth on Thurston’s two-run double to left.
Highland got the pair of runs right back in the bottom half when Rutz led off with a walk and later scored on an error, and Hacke singled and later tagged and scored on Wright’s sacrifice fly.
“We didn’t come to play today,” Zobrist said. “Jerseyville came in with the intention of knocking us off at home and succeeded. Our intensity was not as good as I wanted, but we began to battle back. But it wasn’t enough to dig ourselves out of the hole we created. Jerseyville played well. They wanted it more today.”