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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Highlands Ladybirds Beat NCC on a Walk-Off Hit

Highlands Records First Shut-Out of Season at Great Time

PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, Highlands seventh-grade pitcher Gracie Schlosser deals in the game against Newport Central Catholic on Wednesday. Schlosser struck out five in the 1-0 Ladybird victory.
If there is one thing that turns around a season, it is a dramatic win over an arch-rival,

The Highlands Ladybirds softball team (3-5 overall) hopes that turns out to be the case with the eventful 1-0 win over the Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (5-7) at Winkler Field on Wednesday in the 36th District opener for both teams. Highlands moved to 1-1 against 9th Region competition with its fifth straight win in the series against the Thoroughbreds and first shut-out of the year.

"We've haven't played any weak teams really on our schedule yet and we do that on purpose," said Rob Coffey, Highlands Head Coach. "We've taken some beatings. We've had some struggles with our pitching early on. But I think we have that all settled in. We're focusing on hitting now. We're putting the ball in play. We have a ton of speed so we feel if we put the ball in play, good things are going to happen. We need games like this to get our confidence going."

Highlands scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh with one out. Junior shortstop Brooke Dill singled up the middle on an 0-1 pitch from NewCath veteran starter Haley Meyers with the bases loaded to plate seventh-grader Addie Mack to end the game.

"I had a lot of energy inside of me because I knew there were runners on that I had to get in," Dill said. "I was really focusing on trying to get the ball out of the infield whether it was a pop-up deep in the outfield or a grounder through the infield so I could score the run for my team. It's really exciting to see these younger girls growing. They're a part of our team. We really don't distinguish between younger girls and older girls anymore. We're one team. We win together. We fight together and that's how we're successful."

Mack singled up the middle with one out on a 2-2 count. Highland sent junior shortstop Maleah Abner to the plate as a pinch-hitter. Abner smacked the second pitch from Meyers down the right-field line advancing Mack to third.

"Coach (Coffey) has always told us to be prepared for the moment and to think of different situations," Abner said. "I know if I have a certain count or if I'm put in a stressful situation, I'm mentally prepared what to do. We've been iffy the first couple games. But as a team, we've come together and I think we're going to have a good season."

Highlands then re-entered senior left fielder Kara Fornash at first and sent freshman Taylar Lorenzen to the plate as a pinch-hitter. But NewCath intentionally walked Lorenzen to load the bases so Highlands re-entered seventh-grader Anna Greenwell at first to set up Dill's heroics.

Highlands seventh-grade pitcher Gracie Schlosser picked up her second win of the season and first career shut-out. Schlosser struck out five and worked herself out of two tough situations with runners on second and third and just one out.

The first time came in the top of the fifth. But Schlosser recorded a strikeout and Greenwell made a great play in center field to end the threat.

"Our seventh-graders go out there and are absolutely fearless," Coffey said. "They've won a couple games for us. A normal seventh-grader lets the ball bounce, but (Greenwell) comes in and takes the hit away. We take a ton of pride in our defense. We work on it year-round. We talked about executing and they executed."

The other time came in the seventh inning after Alex Burkart reached on an error and Kate Kelly walked before Kacy Zimmerman sacrifice bunted them over. But Schlosser coaxed a pop-out to Rachel Gabbard at second and Dill nipped the next NewCath batter at first to end the top of the seventh.

"I had a lot of trust in my teammates because I knew that they would make the plays if I just threw strikes," Schlosser said. "Some of the pitches had some weird spins that I couldn't get under control. I just kept throwing them and they worked suddenly."

Gabbard had another web gem in the sixth inning. The fourth-year starting second baseman dove to her right on a hard-hit ball by Meyers and threw to Dill at second to get the lead runner.

Dill finished 2-for-3 to lead Highlands. Gabbard doubled in the sixth and Josie Daley recorded the other one of six Highlands hits against Meyers with a single in the fourth.

Meyers struck out four and walked three for NewCath. Jenna Martin, Gabbard and Dill recorded stolen bases against her.

Highlands takes on Beechwood (1-6) on Thursday back at Winkler Field. Game time is 5 p.m.

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