Sports

Highland hammers Hillcrest to advance

Ravens' Graber hits homer, Huskies' Stransky goes 3-for-3

Sarah Miller fields a grounder while Hillcrest teammate Leah Bontrager backs her up during a Class 1A regional opener at Highland. The Huskies scored a 13-1 win over Hillcrest to advance. (Doug Brenneman/Union)
Sarah Miller fields a grounder while Hillcrest teammate Leah Bontrager backs her up during a Class 1A regional opener at Highland. The Huskies scored a 13-1 win over Hillcrest to advance. (Doug Brenneman/Union)
/

RIVERSIDE — The first game of the 2020 high school softball season for both Hillcrest and Highland was a 12-0 victory for the Huskies at home.

Huskies pitcher Grace Batchellor shut out the Ravens on a no-hitter.

Monday the two teams played again. While Hillcrest had improved since the opener, it was still a 12-run difference as Highland won 13-1, ending Hillcrest’s season.

The Ravens did get a hit in each frame of the three-inning game, highlighted by a Mia Graber blast over the right field fence in the top of the third inning.

“We knew that they could hit, but it was just a matter of where we put the pitch,” Highland coach Carrie Wieland said. “We missed that one a little bit and I said right away, ‘That is out.’”

Highland had scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning from the top three batters in the order — Dani Laughlin, Kinze Hora and Abbi Stransky. Laughlin and Stransky each hit a double while Hora reached on an error.

“We put the ball to the right side and scored those runs,” Wieland said. “We did what we wanted at the very beginning of the game and that set things up for us. That started us off on the right foot and we just keep going from there.”

“It helps to start off good,” said Stransky, who was 3-for-3 with two doubles, a single and three runs batted in. “I was able to see the ball coming in well and I took advantage of it.”

Stransky, who is the catcher, likes a high pitch because she can get more power behind it.

For a baseball team, a catcher is the quarterback, a position Stransky knows well since she played quarterback on Highland’s junior varsity.

“I rely on the fielders to finish with the pitcher started,” she said.

Highland had two runners on in the second inning with one out, but Ravens’ first baseman Graber made a great catch of a bunt attempt and threw to Miranda Blossom covering first for a double play that ended the inning.

“We just missed a sign there,” Wieland said. “Afterward, I had a little confrontation with them and explained a few things.”

Third baseman Sarah Miller had a hit in the first inning for Hillcrest and pitcher Leah Bontrager connected for a base knock in the second.

“I thought we came in with a very good approach to Batchellor,” Ravens head coach Kent Blossom said. “We wanted to lay off of her half-speed pitch and go after her fastball. I thought we were aggressive and got some balls in play.”

Graber’s home run seemed to wake up the Highland bats.

“We knew what we needed to do and we were able to do it once we got more patient,” Wieland said. “I thought everybody did a great job. That is all we needed to do. Girls are looking to get a big hit and save the day, but that is not what we want to do. I told them, ‘do your job’ and they did it.”

Bontrager did her job in the circle but, “We obviously made some defensive mistakes and that allowed some runs and it snowballed from there,” Coach Blossom said. “Leah has definitely improved over the course of the year. Her pitch selection, aggression and knowing what pitch to throw to what hitter all improved over the course of the year. She kept us in ballgames.”

Hillcrest ends its season wit a record of 0-12. Highland is 8-6 and will play Wednesday, hosting Lone Tree (5-9), a 5-0 winner over Iowa Valley (1-11).

“That will be a tight game,” Wieland said. Highland defeated Lone Tree 9-5 at Lone Tree in the second game of the season.