To move along in the postseason, talent helps. So does getting the breaks, and Herrin’s softball team didn’t get or create enough of them Thursday in its sectional semifinal.
Unable to get a key hit or to make a key play at various junctures, the Tigers’ 27-win season ended with a 4-0 loss to Highland at Charlotte West Stadium on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
“It seemed like everything went their way and not our way,” Herrin coach Jim Cowzan said. “They get a hit with two outs and the girl couldn’t have thrown it out there any better. We had a hit that was called foul and if it’s fair, we’ve got second and third with two outs for Rebecca (Moffett) in a 2-0 game.
“They score in the bottom of the inning and it’s a big momentum shift. But the bottom line was we didn’t string enough hits together.”
For that, the Tigers (27-10) can blame righthander Kirsten Plocher, who scattered five hits in a complete-game shutout that upped her record to 12-2. Plocher, who got a lot of mileage from her riser and screwball, displayed the gift of making her best pitches in the toughest spots.
Highland will face Freeburg for a 3A sectional championship. The game was scheduled for Saturday, but with an ominous weekend weather forecast, has been moved to Friday at 4:30 p.m.
In the third, after Raegen Gosha led off with an infield hit, stole second and reached third on a one-out sacrifice bunt by Lexi Childers, Plocher induced a foulout to leave Gosha 60 feet away.
In the fourth, after Makayla Smothers singled and Hunter Schullian walked with one out, Plocher protected her 2-0 lead by freezing the next two hitters with called third strikes.
“Hats off to the pitcher,” Cowzan said. “I thought she really controlled the zone. We didn’t make the adjustment on the inside pitch and it really hurt us. I don’t know if it was a screwball or what, but hats off to her.”
Plocher also got work done at the plate, breaking the scoring seal in the second with a two-out, two-run bloop single to short right that plopped in and out of Childers’ glove after she made a long run from second base.
The Bulldogs (25-8) made it 3-0 in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Aubrey Hacke, and tacked on their last run in the sixth on a two-out RBI single by Lauren Wright.
Herrin sophomore Calli Sutcliffe (20-5) battled to keep her team in contention, working out of a handful of tough jams. Sutcliffe yielded eight hits and three earned runs over six innings, but her effort went for naught.