The Highland softball team claimed a huge win on Wednesday when they traveled to Cardington.
Not only did their 10-7 road win boost them to 13-6, 7-4 in league play, but it also was Cardington’s first Blue DIvision loss since May 6, 2014 and Highland’s first win over the Pirates since May 2 of that same year.
“They wanted this,” said Scot coach Shelly Hornsby. “It is a huge win and confidence booster for our team. It’s a great way to start getting ready for the end of the season.”
A five-run fifth inning was crucial for the Scots. While they scored first against the Pirates (16-4, 11-1), Cardington had caught up and taken a 5-3 lead after four innings. However, after scoring five in the fifth, Highland led the rest of the way.
After Makenna McClure struck out the first batter of the inning, Mattie Ruehrmund hit a single and Bridget Oder followed up with a two-run homer that tied things up at five.
“That was a key point in getting our offense started,” said Hornsby. “That two-run homer by Bridget — the girls feed off that.”
Kaitlyn Carney then got a single and was driven in by a Kelsey Walters’ double. Then, with two outs, Walters was brought home by a Katie Coffee single. Cardington then muffed a deep fly ball hit by Lucy Smith, allowing Coffee to score and give Highland an 8-5 lead.
Cardington coach Tod Brininger noted that his team just wasn’t as sharp as they needed to be in the game.
“We had two starters missing, but that’s not an excuse,” he said. “We had seven or eight errors. That’s not like us. They played well and made nice defensive plays when they had to. They earned it — no doubt.”
Highland would add to their lead in the seventh inning. After giving up back-to-back singles to Harlee Steck and Coffee, McClure retired two straight batters. However, Morgan Wilhelm laced a run-scoring double and then, with Casey Bertke on the mound for the Pirates, Ruehrmund drove in the team’s 10th score with a single to give them a five-run lead.
Cardington attempted to rally in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Rylee Partlow drew a walk and Kierston George reached on an error to put runners on the corners. Bertke grounded out, but scored a run and moved George to third base, and Paige Clinger followed with a run-scoring double to make it a 10-7 game.
However, Abby O’Bryant, who entered the game in relief of Smith in the fourth inning, was able to get the final two outs to clinch the game for Highland.
“Abby has really come along in pitching,” said Hornsby. “We’re using her more and more and she’s dominating on the mound right now.”
Highland struck first in the game, tallying two runs off Bertke in the second inning. Oder opened the inning with a single and then back-to-back Pirate errors on ground balls hit by Carney and Walters brought in one run, while leaving two on base. Coffee would then give her team a 2-0 lead on a groundout.
Cardington tied the game in the third inning, though, as Partlow brought in both Taiylor Hubley and Bayley Adams with a single. However, a RBI single by Smith in the fourth inning put Highland back in front by a 3-2 margin.
The Pirates would strike in the bottom of the fourth, leading off with a double by George. With one out, Paige Clinger drove in a run with a long hit and advanced all the way to home things to a bad throw, giving Cardington a 4-3 lead. Later in the inning, with two runners on, Alyson Adams brought in another run with a single.
After that, though, Cardington’s offense dried up until the final inning, as Highland took over the game with their strong fifth inning. Brininger noted that his team had plenty of base-runners throughout the game, but struggled to bring them home.
“That’s the thing,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of games where we haven’t got timely hits. We usually do, but didn’t have timely hitting when we needed it.”
After his team lost its first league game in three years, Brininger is hoping the loss can be a learning experience.
“You learn more from losses than wins and we haven’t lost a league game in three years,” he said. “I can tell you that our girls will work as hard in the weight room as ever tonight and at practice tomorrow.”
In the other dugout, Hornsby was pleased by her team’s attitude, both at the plate and in the field.
“We really attacked with our bats,” she said. “If you want to win, you have to attack and everyone of them attacked at the plate. We had a few errors, but they’re learning to forget about errors and pick yourself up.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS