MASCOUTAH A big stage doesn’t seem to rattle the young Highland Bulldogs softball team.
Highland pitcher Aubrey Hacke tossed a complete game shutout and Lauren Wright scored the only two runs of the game as the Bulldogs defeated Carbondale, 2-0 at the Mascoutah Class 3A softball sectional semifinals.
The Bulldogs (23-9) will face either Mater Dei or Waterloo for the sectional championship Saturday at 11 a.m.
Highland, which hadn’t competed in a sectional game in six years, defeated a Terrier team that had seven seniors that had competed in sectional semifinals three years in a row.
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Carbondale looked like it was in unfamiliar territory though.
A misread on a deep fly ball off the bat of Highland’s Lauren Wright turned an out into a triple off the base of the left field fence. Reily Kassay followed with a single to give Highland a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth.
Carbondale pitcher Sam Goodale was victimized by three Terrier errors behind her during the game.
Goodale and Hacke matched each other inning for inning throughout the game until the top of the sixth when Wright hit a towering home run over the left field fence to make in 2-0.
“I’m just glad to help out our team,” said Wright. “I felt like I was seeing the ball really well today. I locked on to it and drove it. “
Carbondale had a scoring chance in the first when Goodale reached third after singling to lead off the game, but Hacke ended the inning with a strikeout before Goodale could advance any further.
“Aubrey was fantastic today,” said Highland coach Brittne Zobrist. “She’s really been fantastic all year but she’s also a really good outfielder so I have to determine where I want her to play each day.”
Two straight singles to lead off the fourth led to runners on first and second for the Terriers, but again Hacke was able to escape unharmed to preserve the shutout.
“Highland played well and we didn’t execute when we needed to, that’s what happens when you get to this level,” said Carbondale coach Kim Wheeler.
Carbondale refused to roll over in the seventh and mounted a rally to load the bases on three consecutive infield singles. Highland recorded two outs at home, however, including the game-ending double play.
Carbondale finished the season (19-7) and were co-champs in the South Seven Conference to go along with their third straight regional championship.