Huskies open playoffs with win
It seemed as if there was a big sigh of relief after the final pitch of the seventh inning on Wednesday night.
The strikeout by Katie Springer, her sixth of the night, ended the game, giving the Highland softball team an 8-1 victory over Van Buren in Riverside, but the Huskies weren’t ready to celebrate anything just yet.
“There were a little bit of nerves there and we just kind of expected to go in there and blow them out,” Highland head coach Carrie Weiland said. “We need to work a little harder about doing our jobs and less about what individual needs to do. This one is over and we aren’t going to talk about it much. If we stay focused on what we are doing, we’ll be fine.”
The No. 1 ranked team in 2A started off hot in the contest, scoring all eight of its runs in the first three innings, but after that point, Van Buren’s defense clamped down.
Through the rest of the game the Warriors only allowed three hits, but were unable to get the offense going as their season ended with a 6-18 record.
“I expect (that fight) when you have seven seniors on the team,” Van Buren head coach Eric Speer said. “They lead by example. They’ve done an excellent job of leading the younger kids and it showed tonight. I think we were nervous those first three innings because it was the first time we’ve been out of the first round in a long time, but once we got those nerves out, we played hard.”
Highland got things going right away, with Cheyann Adamson leading off the home half of the first with a bunt single. Singles by Bridget Murphy and Morgan Craig brought two runs home in the inning, making it 2-0 Huskies.
“We need (Cheyann) to start and lead us,” Weiland said. “She’s a great lead-off hitter and she leads quietly and when she starts it, it’s hard to stop.”
Highland tacked on two more runs in the second, and then a two-RBI single by Kelsey Hora capped off a four-run third inning, making it 8-0 in favor of the home team.
In the fifth, Van Buren’s Taylor Murguia picked up a two-out RBI single, driving in Kadie Meek for the lone Warrior run of the night.
Adamson led the charge offensively for Highland, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored while Hora (2-for-4, two RBIs, three stolen bases) and Craig (3-for-4, one RBI) had nice nights at the plate.
Murphy and Bailey Walsh also notched multi-hit games on Wednesday, going 2-for-4 and 2-for-3 respectively.
In the circle for Highland, Katie Springer allowed six hits and one walk, for the Huskies en route to the win.
For Van Buren, Meek racked up three singles, going 3-for-3, while Bonnie Saunders went 2-for-3.
Wednesday’s game also ended a four-game streak of putting up double-digit runs. The Huskies have managed to plate 10 or more runs in 16 of their last 19 contests.
Although the Warriors’ season ended on Wednesday, the arrow seemed to be pointing up for Speer’s club.
“I’ve heard more comments about Warrior softball today than I have in the three years I’ve coached,” Speer said. “I told the seniors it hasn’t been the greatest season recordwise, but just one simple game can motivate everyone else for future years. I expect things to keep looking up for us.”
With the victory, Highland will advance to face Wapello on Friday night. The conference opponents met twice this season, with Highland sweeping the season series 5-1 and 10-2, but Highland isn’t going to be taking the game lightly.
“The days off really kill us,” Weiland said. “We are a team that likes to play every day and we got into a lull after those eight runs and couldn’t finish it. We left too many runners on base, but it was a win. You can’t argue 8-1 too much, but to play that game against Wapello will not be a win.”
The game will begin at 7 p.m. at Riverside.