|PHOTO: Allen Ramsey, DWCPhoto.com. Highlands junior Taylor Baioni gets in position in Monday's game against Covington Holy Cross.|
The Highlands Ladybirds softball team (22-10 overall) played that well defensively in the 9-0 win over the Covington Holy Cross Lady Indians (14-14) on Monday in the 9th Region quarterfinals at Veterans Field. Highlands senior pitcher Bailey Spencer struck out 10 in the one-hit win and Highlands player error-free defense behind her. Highlands moved to 16-0 against the region this season.
The teams were scheduled to play at Winkler Field on April 23. But rain forced the cancellation.
The lone runner for the Lady Indians came in the top of the sixth. Holy Cross sophomore first baseman Maggie Tupman hit that landed just in front of Highlands second baseman Rachel Gabbard. But Tupman did not last long as Highlands sophomore catcher Josie Daley fired a strike to senior Brennah Dutcher at first to pick her off.
"Our defense is always solid," said Rob Coffey, Highlands Head Coach. "I don't worry about that too much. Anybody is vulnerable at this time of the year to make a mistake or a bad hop. Bailey is hard to square up. Then when they do square up, we have some pretty good athletes out there to slow them down. It keeps us in games for sure."
That made up for a sub-par day offensively for Highlands in a game many expected to be a run-ruling. The Ladybirds strung together nine hits to go with six walks and five Holy Cross errors. Highlands left six on base.
Highlands made some base-running errors and hit a lot of pitches from Holy Cross pitchers Kaitlyn Turner and Aleah Tucker in the air. Holy Cross committed its errors when Highlands hit the ball ont he ground.
"I don't know what it is with us," Coach Coffey said. "We tend to lose focus from time to time on the offensive side. We're not as bad of hitters as we put out there. We actually have some nice hitters. I saw a team with a lack of focus and no energy. I know it's hot (84 degrees Monday). But we talked about distractions. We have to remove the distractions and focus on the job. That didn't happen (Monday). We were lucky enough to put the bat on the ball to get the runs that we did."
Ladybird senior Shelby Graybill went 3-for-4 with a double, two runs batted in and two runs scored for the three-time 36th District champions. Haley Coffey went 2-for-4 with a double and run scored with Daley going 2-for-3 with a double. Eighth-grader Brittany Johnson pitch-ran for Daley all three times she reached base and scored once.
Highlands scored in all but the fifth inning of its six at-bats. But the Ladybirds never went in order.
The Ladybirds scored the only run they needed in the first inning. Morgan Coffey walked, moved to third on a Graybill single and scored on an error.
"The whole year, my dad (Coach Coffey) has said to be aggressive on base," Morgan Coffey said. "Every time the ball is hit, we just run fast. We get (to the next base) as soon as we can."
They added two more in the bottom of the second. Daley doubled and Taylor Baioni bunted pinch-runner Johnson to third before Abby Rust lined one into the outfield passed a drawn-in infield to score Johnson.
"It's about staying calm, not shaking putting any pressure on yourself and keeping your hands in line and not dropping them," Rust said. "If we do drop our hands and Coach (Coffey) tells us that, I fix it. It's about having the mindset that I'm doing to drill it. If they catch it, I at least know it's a good hit."
Rust scored later in the inning. She took second on a passed ball and third on a wild pitch. Brooke Dill then walked putting runners at the corners. Dill took off for second and Rust scored when Holy Cross threw to second.
Highlands added two more runs in the fourth inning to go up 6-0. Rust walked, moved to third on an error and scored on another error. Dill moved to second on the throw into the infield then scored after two straight Holy Cross errors.
The Ladybirds tried to finish the game in the sixth inning. Haley Coffey led off the inning with a single and stole second. Sister Morgan Coffey then walked and Graybill doubled them both in. Graybill wound up at third when Holy Cross threw the ball in and scored when Gabbard hit a sacrifice fly to right.
Highlands takes on Boone County on Tuesday in the region semifinals at Northern Kentucky University. Game time is 4:15 p.m. The teams did not meet during the regular season.
Covington Holy Cross (14-14) 000 000 0 - 0 1 5
Highlands (22-10) 121 203 X - 9 9 0
Highlands pitching line:
Bailey Spencer, seven IP, 10 strikeouts, one hit, no walks.
Highlands leading hitters:
Shelby Graybill, 3-for-4, double, two runs batted in, two runs.
Haley Coffey, 2-for-4, double, run scored.
Josie Daley, 2-for-3, run scored.
9th Region Softball Tournament Schedule:
Monday, May 30:
Quarterfinals at Vets Field, Newport:
Boone County 3, Dixie Heights 0
Highlands 9, Covington Holy Cross 0
Ryle 3, Newport Central Catholic 0
Notre Dame 6, St. Henry 3
Tuesday, May 31:
Semifinals at Vets Field, Newport:
Highlands (22-10) vs. Boone County (13-16), 5:30 p.m.
Ryle (24-8) vs. Notre Dame (20-6), 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, June 2:
Championship at Vets Field, Newport:
Tuesday winners, 6 p.m.