If there was any question as to why Highland got the top seed of the otherwise tight Civic Memorial 3A Softball Regional, the Bulldogs put that discussion to rest Tuesday.
Highland delivered a 14-1, short-game thrashing of Jerseyville in the first semifinal game with a display of hitting and an outstanding pitching performance by freshman Kirsten Plocher.
Going the full five, Plocher gave up four hits and walked two, but kept Jerseyville off the board until there was one out remaining. A solo home run that broke up her shutout.
Highland head coach Brittne Zobrist said she expects big things from Plocher, despite her age.
"She's solid every time we put her on the mound," Zobrist said. "We know what we're going to get every time she's out there. We have a couple nice pitchers in the dugout, and it's nice to just be able to kind of pick one out of a hat and know that you are going to be in the game no matter what."
The Highland bats were just as impressive as its pitcher. Smacking 10 hits, the Bulldogs offense helped Ploucher settle into the game.
"Once [Plocher] steps on the mound, she's pretty much in her zone," Zobrist said. "It doesn't really matter what the score is; she continues to focus on throwing strikes, hitting her spots, mixing it up and doing her job."
The Bulldogs biggest offensive contributor was its lone senior, Mallory Rutz. On a sacrifice attempt, Rutz reached first on an error and came around to score later that inning. She finished the game going 2-for-3 with a double in her last at-bat.
Zobrist said she was pleased with the offense's overall performance.
"We were patient, but we were still aggressive," Zobrist said. "We've been doing that better later; hitting the pitch, squaring it up and really driving the ball."
Highland takes on Alton Marquette at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Bethalto Sports Complex for the regional crown.
MARQUETTE 3, TRIAD 0
Despite a sharp outing from pitcher Kari Sarhage, the Triad Knights fell 3-0 to Marquette in the Civic Memorial Class 3A Regional Softball tournament.
"I thought she did well; I thought they had some timely hits and capitalized on some errors," Triad head coach Kris Kleeman said. "One to nothing or three to nothing, it really at that point is just all a matter of the fact that we didn't score any runs."
Sarhage went the full seven innings and gave six hits and one earned run during her time on the mound, but her offense gave little support.
Triad was able to get three hits in the game, but could not get a runner past second base. The team's biggest scoring threat came in the fifth inning, when it got two hits but was ultimately shutdown by Marquette pitcher Meghan Schorman.
Schorman struck out five in seven innings and walked two. Her shutout kept Marquette in the lead from the fourth inning onward.
Triad's one through four hitters went 1-for-12 against Schorman. No Triad hitter had more than one hit off the freshman.
"One to nothing I thought we were doing alright," Kleeman said. "Three to nothing I thought maybe we chased a little more than we should. Unfortunately, that's how that goes. You get yourself down in a hole and you're trying to make up all three runs at once rather than getting them one at a time."
Marquette will face Highland for the regional title Saturday at 11 a.m.