By Mark Jurgena
Highland’s softball team graduated several seniors from last year’s Class 3A state championship team.
But you wouldn’t have known it based on the final four innings of play as they scored all their runs during that time on their way to an 11-3 road win over Collinsville Monday afternoon.
It was the season opener for both teams.
“It’s the same as us, they have different pieces than last year,” said Collinsville coach Jess Schmittling. “A lot of their games rode on (Sam) Miener last year, which was no surprise to anybody. But now they have to figure out how to execute offensively more this year and they did that against us today.”
Last season Miener, now pitching at Division I Austin Peay, was the dominant force for the Bulldogs. Against CHS, Highland used 14 hits and four errors to subdue the Kahoks.
“When they capitalize on the mistakes we made in the field that’s when that game starts to open up versus keeping it close for us.”
Collinsville jumped out to an early lead with a big inning to start the game and took a 3-0 lead.
Lexi Rafalowski, Allix Jakich, Brylee Anderton, and Brianna Wellen all singled in the first inning. Rafalowski, Jakich, and Anderton scored in the inning with Wellen picking up an RBI.
CHS was unable to push across any more runs for the remainder of the game.
“Early on we came out ready to go, had a great defensive inning, and then took the momentum of that into an offensive inning where we put up three,” began Schmittling. “From there we kind of rode that out versus keeping the pressure on. We talked inning after inning about keeping the pressure on and what that means.”
The Kahoks had the bases loaded with two outs in both the bottom of the 2nd and 4th innings but couldn’t increase their lead.
“We left a few runners on base at times,” Schmittling said. “That has to be one of our big goals this year…executing. We have different pieces in our lineup than last year. I think we can be effective with those pieces, it’s just a matter of using them differently.”
Meanwhile, Highland’s bats began to come alive. They got a home run from Madalyn Trauernicht in the 4th and finished their half of the inning trailing only 3-2.
The Bulldogs then opened the floodgates in the fifth.
After a pair of CHS errors, Emma Strubinger singled to load the bases with no outs. Kelly Fuller then drew a walk to score Breanna Habermehl to tie the game.
With the bases still loaded, CHS picked up two outs courtesy of the arm of Anderton. The senior shortstop gunned down two Bulldog runners at home plate to keep the game tied.
However, Gracie Levin drove home a pair of two-out runs to give HHS a 5-3 lead.
They increased their margin to 9-3 after six innings before tacking on a pair of runs in the 7th.
At the same time, Highland’s Sophia Donoho found her stride in the circle.
After getting out of that 4th inning jam, she retired nine of the last ten hitters she faced including eight in a row at one point.
She picked up the complete game victory scattering six hits and striking out six while walking four. All three of her runs were earned.
Trauernicht went 3-for-3 at the plate adding a double to her home run. She had three RBI on the day.
Strubinger, Maggie Grohmann, and Maci Miles all had two hits for HHS. Grohmann recorded a double.
Collinsville was led offensively by two hits off the bats of Rafalowski and Anderton.
Marissa Thomas began the game in the circle for the Kahoks going 5.1 innings and giving up four hits. Maya Clark tossed the final 1.2 innings for CHS.
Collinsville is scheduled to travel to Mascoutah today before hosting a doubleheader against Springfield (Sacred Heart-Griffin) Saturday.
Highland played yesterday at O’Fallon but results were unavailable at press time. They host Rock Island tomorrow at 4:30 p.m.