In the driver's seatHighland takes a comfortable three-game lead in the conference standings
WAPELLO — Even after her team fell behind Wapello 2-0 after one inning of Thursday’s key Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division road game, Highland head softball coach Carrie Wieland wasn’t worried.
And she had no reason to be. The fifth-ranked Huskies rallied to defeat the Arrows 10-2.
“We don’t panic anymore,” Wieland said. “We don’t get nervous like we used to. I wasn’t nervous. I knew after one or two at-bats that we’d pick up the pace and get some hits.”
That’s just what the Huskies did, scoring 10 runs in the game’s final five innings.
Freshman Cheyann Adamson, who was batting ninth in Highland’s order, got a one-out single in the third inning, stole second and scored on senior Paige Wieland’s infield single to trim Wapello’s lead to 2-1.
The Huskies loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth inning, and scored a run when Paige Wieland grounded the ball to Wapello shortstop Ashley Hahnbaum, who attempted to tag eighth-grader Kelsey Hora but missed. Sophomore Bridget Murphy followed with a two-RBI double that put Highland ahead 4-2.
Highland broke the game open with five runs in the sixth inning. Sophomore Courtnee Hahn hit a two-RBI single, sophomore Bailey Walsh singled home a run, and a run scored when sophomore Morgan Craig grounded out. Hahn also scored a run on a wild pitch.
The Huskies tacked on a final run in the seventh inning when junior Jordan Rath singled and scored on a wild pitch.
Highland finished with 12 hits in the game, with half of those coming on bunts or infield singles.
“We had a lot of infield base hits without the ball even being thrown,” Carrie Wieland said. “We’re pretty quick.”
Paige Wieland went 3-for-5 at the plate and drove in a run. Hahn was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and Walsh went 2-for-4 and drove in a run. Adamson went 2-for-4 and scored three runs, and Murphy hit a double and drove in two. Hora and Rath both added hits.
Highland (23-2, 13-0 SEISC North), which won its 11th straight game, now owns a three-game lead in the North Division with five games left to play.
“It gives us quite a bit of cushion,” Carrie Wieland said of the win.
Wapello (14-9, 10-3 SEISC North), which suffered its second tough loss this week after losing 4-3 in eight innings at IMS on Tuesday, falls into a tie for second place with Pekin.
Highland’s hitters finished the game strong, but Wapello sophomore pitcher Allison Klenk made all three Highland batters she faced in the first inning look silly as she struck out the side. Klenk finished with 11 strikeouts even though the Huskies eventually found a way to hit her.
“We knew the pitching was going to be better than what we’d seen, and I think that was true,” Carrie Wieland said. “We made her look good for a while. She threw some good pitches and we chased them. She’s a good pitcher, but we just had to settle in on offense, and once we did, it was over.”
The Arrows then took that momentum into the bottom of the first inning, where they scored two runs. Junior Aubrey Melvin came home to score on a wild pitch from Highland starting pitcher Katie Springer, and senior Kaitlyn Small hit an RBI single with two outs.
“We really had Highland back on their heels,” Wapello head coach Shannon Salazar said. “They didn’t know what to expect. We kept telling the girls that they had nothing to lose tonight. They were the ones with the targets on their backs. We came out strong, but we’ve got to keep that intensity level up, and we lost it.”
After giving up two runs on two hits in the first inning, Springer settled in and allowed just one Wapello hit and two baserunners the rest of the game.
“I just finished my pitches more [after the first inning],” said Springer, who struck out three batters and did not issue a walk. “I just threw the pitches that I needed to and got the ground-outs.”
Carrie Wieland said that her pitcher struggled a bit in the first inning, but quickly found her groove.
“She had to fight through some pitches tonight that weren’t working,” she said. “Once she settles in and throws the pitches that are being called, it just changes the whole ballgame. I’m really proud of her.”
Springer wasn’t nervous after her team fell behind, either.
“Nah,” she said. “We always come back.”