Highland sophomore ace Kirsten Plocher continued her assault on opposing lineups in the postseason as she spun her second straight shutout after blanking Herrin 4-0 Thursday in a semifinal of the Class 3A Herrin Sectional, held at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Herrin came in on an offensive tear after piling up 21 runs in its first two playoff games, but Plocher forced the Tigers to lay goose eggs for all seven innings after silencing on just four hits and two walks while punching out seven.
“I really felt like I was on today with all of my pitches,” said Plocher, who has thrown 14 straight shutout innings in the playoffs to catapult her season record to 12-2 while lowering her ERA to 2.23. “I tried to keep my velocity up and get ahead in the count when I could to make it easier on myself and my defense. They did a great job helping me shut down a very good hitting team, making great plays all the way through the game. I felt like it was an all-around great game for us and I’m so happy to be a part of this team. I can’t wait for us to go further this postseason.”
Plocher also helped herself at the plate as she drove in a game-high two runs, and junior third baseman Reily Kassay collected a game-best three hits, which also included the lone extra-base hit in the game.
In addition, senior Lauren Wright and junior Aubrey Hacke each knocked in one and sophomore Lauren Baer scored a pair of runs.
Highland did not have one strikeout on offense to record its sixth win in a row and improve its record to 25-8.
The Bulldogs scored the only two runs they would need in the second inning when Plocher slapped a two-run single with two outs to chase home both junior Hannah Miener (walk) and sophomore Lauren Baer (single).
The Bulldogs tacked on an insurance tally in each of the fifth and sixth innings to complete the scoring.
In the fifth, Kassay sliced a one-out triple the opposite way to right and then promptly tagged and scored on junior Aubrey Hacke’s sacrifice fly.
In the sixth, Wright smacked and RBI single to center to plate Baer for the final run.
Herrin’s Calli Sutcliffe was pinned with the loss after allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits, two walks with no strikeouts.
For the second year in a row, Highland moves on to the sectional championship, where the Bulldogs will take on Freeburg (24-6) at 4:30 p.m. Friday.