|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Haley Coffey fields the ball in Thursday's game against Notre Dame.|
That's why the Ladybirds brought an 11-game winning streak into Thursday's home showdown against the rival Notre Dame Pandas in a rematch of last year's 9th Region title game. But that did not continue as the Pandas escaped Fort Thomas with a 3-2 win over the Ladybirds (19-8).
Highlands recorded nine hits against Notre Dame senior pitcher Haylee Smith and just four strikeouts. But there were several situations where the Ladybirds did not successfully get bunts down and they left 12 runners on base. Both teams committed two errors.
"We felt we didn't play bad," said Rob Coffey, Highlands Head Coach. "We've been focusing on executing and that's kind of frustrating for us. I've always said Haylee Smith is going to have a say in the region until she graduates. We typically put the bat on the ball against her. It was good to play in a game like this before the postseason."
On the other side, Notre Dame recorded just five hits. But the Pandas only left six runners on base.
Smith and Highlands pitcher Bailey Spencer went the distance. Spencer struck out one and walked one. Smith walked one.
Highlands scored first in first inning. Haley Coffey singled with one out and moved to second when Shelby Graybill singled. Haley Coffey then scored on a Notre Dame error with two out. The Ladybirds scored both runs off both Panda errors.
Highlands had a chance to extend the lead in the second. The Ladybirds loaded the bases with two out but could not push a run across.
Notre Dame took the lead for good in the third inning at 2-1. Kennedy Baugh singled with two out and Smith drew a walk and Lauren Durstack ran for her. Angela Huston then reached on a Highlands error to load the bases. That's when Alecia Radford singled in Baugh and Durstack.
"Plays like that are magnified in a game like this," Coach Coffey said. "We know that. Our defense is solid. We win with our defense and key hitting. Whitney (Quillen) is as good as there is at third. It took a high hop on the second and she didn't come up with it. But I would take her at third or anywhere on defense any day. It's tough luck that it happened to her. But she's solid as a rock."
The Pandas made it 3-1 in the third. Gabby Miller singled and took second on an Erica Huston sacrifice bunt. She then scored when Baugh singled.
Highlands fought back in the fourth. Smith hit Josie Daley with a pitch and Ella Grimm ran for her. Grimm moved to second when Brooke Dill was hit by a pitch. Grimm then scored when Whitney Quillen singled and the Notre Dame outfielder mishandled the ball. Dill also tried to score but was thrown out at the plate.
Highlands started off the seventh in great shape as Graybill and Spencer singled. Chloe Jansen ran for Spencer and advanced to second when Brennah Dutcher grounded out. But Smith coaxed a pop out on a bunt attempt and struck out Daley to end the game.
Quillen and Graybill had two hits each to lead Highlands. Baugh had two for Notre Dame.
Highlands finishes the season Friday at home against Ryle. Game time is 5:30 p.m.