Speak softly and drive in four runsMeek eighth-grader Kelsey Hora was mighty in Highland's comeback
RIVERSIDE — Highland eighth-grader Kelsey Hora seemed more nervous for the postgame interview than she was when her team fell behind visiting Columbus 4-1 after 3 ½ innings of Tuesday’s Southeast Iowa Super Conference North Division softball game.
“We weren’t very worried at all because we have a good lineup,” Hora said. “We knew we were going to come back and get ‘em.”
They did. Hora slapped a two-RBI double down the left-field foul line to spark Highland’s five-run fourth inning, and the 14th-ranked Huskies never trailed again en route to a 10-6 victory.
“I believe that she is our dynamite,” Highland head coach Carrie Wieland said of Hora. “She’s our little firecracker. She can bunt, and they played her good on the bunt today, so we had her slap. She can hit both sides. She’s one I look to to start off a rally. We rely on her a lot.”
Highland sophomore Morgan Craig reached base on an error with one out in the fourth inning, and senior Kassie Vazquez drew a walk before Hora ripped a shot into left field to bring home two runs. Two more runs scored on wild pitches, and then senior Paige Wieland’s bunt single brought home a run to put the Huskies ahead 6-4.
“That got us pumped up,” Hora said of the five-run fourth inning. “We came off of that, and that helped us to get our oomph to keep on going.”
The Huskies (7-1, 5-0 SEISC North) added four more runs in the fifth inning. Craig and Vazquez drew back-to-back walks to start the inning as Columbus starter Megan Pretz began to lose control. Hora’s bunt single brought home a run, and then Hora took off for second base, drawing a throw that allowed Vazquez to score also. Freshman Cheyann Adamson and Wieland added RBI singles that put Highland ahead 10-4.
Highland’s speed gave the Wildcats problems in the fourth and fifth innings.
“Their speed and the small ball that they can play just puts pressure on everybody, and we’re no different from anybody else,” Columbus head coach Tim Milder said. “When they put the pressure on, and you make a mistake, then it can snowball on you.”
Columbus (3-7, 2-3 SEISC North) scored a run in each of the sixth and seventh innings thanks to Highland errors, but ultimately came up short.
Hora may have been quiet in the postgame interview, but she made a lot of noise with her bat in Tuesday’s game. She went 2-for-3 with a double, drove in four runs and scored twice.
“I’m pretty proud of myself for hitting the way I did,” she said meekly.
Wieland finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and Adamson was 1-for-2 with an RBI and two runs scored. Craig scored three runs, and Vazquez touched home plate twice. Sophomores Bridget Murphy and Courtnee Hahn both added hits for the Huskies.
Sophomore Kelsey Pretz went 2-for-4 to lead the Wildcats, and Megan Pretz had a double and an RBI. Sophomore Claire Hamilton went 1-for-2 and drove in a run, while junior Heidi Duttlinger, junior Coree Winters and sophomore Torie Johnston each added a hit.
Highland scored first when Craig scored on Hora’s groundout in the second inning, but the Wildcats answered with a run in the top of the third inning. Then, with two outs in the fourth inning, Columbus scored three more runs. Winters and Hamilton, the Wildcats’ Nos. 8 and 9 hitters, smacked back-to-back singles, with Hamilton’s putting Columbus ahead 2-1. Then, senior Caitlin Chaney struck out for what would have been the third out of the inning, but she reached first base safely on a dropped strike three. Winters and Hamilton both scored on the play, but Chaney was thrown out when she tried to get to third base.
“Our goal tonight was to score some runs,” Milder said. “We’d been held scoreless for the last four games. I just talked to the girls about putting the ball in play, and it worked out tonight for us. We got some runs across.”
But Highland found a way to score a few more and rally for the win.
“We’re going to find ways to get it done,” Wieland said. “We just keep fighting and burying them to make them feel like they can’t be in the game with us. That’s what we’re trying to do.”