Monday, May 28, 2018
Tight Battle for Highlands to Open Region Tournament
Highlands (19-10) took a 1-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning, lost it, but found a way to scratch one across in the bottom of the 10th to pull off a 2-1 victory in the 9th Region quarterfinals at Veterans Memorial Park in Newport on Monday.
Highlands did manage to go 9-of-35 for a .257 clip against Jackson, who retired the side five times. Jackson walked none and struck out nine. All nine hits were singles. Junior Rachel Gabbard, sophomore Taylar Lorenzen and eighth graders Anna Greenwell and Addie Mack had two each. Senior Baylie Ormes had the other single.
Eighth grade pitcher Gracie Schlosser said she needed to do better and responded holding Boone County to 4-of-33 for a .121 clip. Schlosser also struck out nine, walked four and hit Lady Rebel senior Taylor Works twice. Highlands also played error-free defense behind her compared to two Boone County errors.
"We've had a tendency over the course of the year to lose focus and we've really, really worked hard on that to go a long time with a lot of young kids and Gracie Schlosser on the mound to stay focused that long in that intense of a game," said Rob Coffey, Highlands Head Coach. "It's just amazing what these kids did (Monday). What a performance (Jackson) put on. She had us stumbling at the plate. What a fighter. You could see in her eyes she was not going to let (Boone County) lose (Monday). Thank goodness we got a couple key hits and were able to score one more than they did."
Highlands scored the game-winning run with one out in the bottom of the 10th. Lorenzen singled and moved to second when Jackson threw a wild pitch on the first pitch to Greenwell. Greenwell then hit one into right field. Boone County sophomore Alyiah Beach tried to make a diving catch, but could not come up with it. Lorenzen darted around third to score the game-winning run.
"I had confidence in the last inning for that at-bat," Greenwell said. "Earlier, it was tough because I kind of got down on myself after a strikeout, but that just motivated me more to hit the ball harder the next time. It's a great feeling to win the game, especially not to let the nine seniors down."
Boone County managed to put a runner at second in all three extra frames, but did not score. The Lady Rebels had runners at first and second with one out in the ninth. But Schlosser struck out Beach and got eighth grader Katelyn Irwin to ground out to Lorenzen at second to end the threat.
Highlands recorded a huge defensive gem in the first inning. Boone County senior Taylor Wright singled and moved to second when sophomore Star Smith laid down a sacrifice bunt. Wright tried to take third, but Lorenzen fired a dart to catcher Josie Daley at third to cut Wright down. Jackson then flied out to senior Brooke Dill in center to end that inning.
"Honestly, that was really exciting for me," Daley said. "We just put in that play this week actually and I kind of forgot. I realized what I needed to do and thought I would be late so the fact that I was there when (Wright) was is extremely exciting."
Jackson retired the first eight Highlands batters before Lorenzen smacked a single up the middle. Greenwell followed with a bloop single to right, but Jackson got Highlands sophomore Abby Rust to pop out to Irwin at second.
"One of the things we focused on was trying to put the ball in play," Coffey said. "In the first couple innings, we were swinging through the ball a little bit too hard. We shortened our swings some, started putting it in play a little bit, started making a little action happen and thank goodness we got enough in there to squeak it out. It wasn't a high-scoring game, but what an intense game. Our coaching staff is mush. There's nothing left in our brains."
The Bluebirds broke through in the fourth for a 1-0 lead. Gabbard singled and took second when the ball rolled past Beach in right. Senior Ella Griewe ran for Gabbard and moved to third when senior Liz Mairose grounded out to short. Mack hit the ball to shallow center. Works tried to dive for it, but could not make the play allowing Griewe to score.
"It's really important we've trained for this so long," Griewe said. "It's really good to be able to trust the (base) coach and to know that you'll get (home) and to have the confidence you'll get that run when you need it."
Highlands tried to add to the lead in the sixth inning. With two out, Mack singled pinch runner Caroline Class to second bringing up Ormes. Ormes lined one to center. Class tried to score but Boone County threw the ball to junior catcher Nikki Bridgers a number of steps up the line to tag out Class to end the inning.
That play loomed large in the seventh. Schlosser struck out Works. But with a 2-0 count, freshman Morgan Daniels smashed one over the left center wall to tie the game at 1-1. Schlosser retired the next two batters to keep the game tied.
Jackson doubled with two out in the eighth inning for Boone County. But Bridgers grounded out to Greenwell at short to end the threat.
Jackson retired the first five Highlands batters in extra innings. Dill reached second with two out on a throwing error in the ninth inning.
The Bluebirds are back in the 9th Region semifinals after losing 5-1 to Dixie Heights in the 9th quarterfinals last year. They had gone to at least the region semifinals the previous four seasons winning the region in 2014 and 2016.
Highlands takes on 34th District champion St. Henry (17-17) at 6 p.m. back at Newport Veterans Memorial Park. The winner plays in the region championship at the same time Thursday against either 35th District champion Notre Dame (16-13) or 33rd champion Ryle (22-5). Highlands had its game rained out against St. Henry.