Highland Wins Varsity Season Softball Opener With Knox County
By David Sharp
Highland junior Avery Johnson limited Knox County (0-1) to two hits, fanning six of her 18 batters faced in a 15-1, five inning August 29, 2013 win. Johnson hit the first home run over the fence in the new Highland softball stadium. The three run blast keyed a five run second inning, putting the Lady Cougars up 7-0 after two frames.
"This was the first game on our brand new field. The girls have been waiting for this," Highland coach Paul Scifres said. "The girls are pumped up. They came out and played well. We bunted well, we ran well. Of course, Avery (Johnson) had the big shot."
"She pitched extremely well. It was a great effort," Coach Scifres said. "Hopefully we will keep the momentum in our dugout for awhile."
Highland (1-0) capitalized on first game jitters from a talented, but inexperienced in terms of varsity softball Knox County infield. Starting hurler Lauren Dale walked Avery Johnson then Amber Garner to lead off the HHS first inning.
Two errors and a passed ball allowed both runners to score. Lauren Dale fanned her first of six Highland batters on the night, keeping Lady Cougar runners on second and third base. Highland added to their two run lead with a five run second inning.
Dana Flanigan drew a leadoff walk. Autumn Florea attempted a sacrifice bunt. Florea reached first base when the KCHS third baseman's momentum carried her into the fielder trying to throw the ball.
Avery Johnson took advantage of the miscue when she launched a Lauren Dale offering over the left field fence for a three run homer. Amber Garner and Casey Hinkle stroked back to back singles with none out in the HHS second.
Casey Hinkle later slid home on a wild pitch. After Lauren Dale fanned a batter, Taylor Hamilton singled driving in another run. Hamilton went 2-4 with two RBI's and a run scored. She snared three hard hit balls in center field along with another fly ball catch.
Lauren Dale struck out two batters to end the second inning. Highland sent ten batters to the plate and led 7-0 after two innings. Knox County scored their only run of the game in their third inning.
Avery Johnson set the first seven Lady Eagles down in order. Shanna Elder ended the perfect game bid with a hard hit double to right field. Madi Yoakum slammed an RBI triple, scoring Elder for a 7-1 contest.
A strikeout and a sure handed catch by Karley Smth in right field stranded Yoakum on third base. Highland lengthened the margin to 12-1 with a five run bottom half of inning three.
Autumn Florea led off the Lady Cougar third inning with a hit. Highland put their leadoff batter on in three of their four offensive innings. Casey Hinkle singled, driving in a run. Taylor Hamilton drove in another run with a hit.
Two bases on balls and an error aided the home team's cause. Ashlynn Lay plated another Highland run with a sac fly. Casey Hinkle keyed a three run Highland fourth frame with a two run double.
Casey Hinkle finished with a 3-3 day at bat. Hinkle scored twice, offering up three RBI's and a first inning sacrifice bunt. KCHS pitcher Lauren Dale pitched around an error with two strikeouts to end the inning.
Highland took a 15-1 lead to the top of the fifth inning. Designated player Skye Bugh drew what proved to be the only walk winning pitcher Avery Johnson allowed. A strikeout and a pop up to the circle ended the game by the ten run rule.
Highland had 15 runs on ten hits and no errors. Autumn Florea went 2-2 at bat for Highland with three runs scored. The Lady Cougars stranded six runners. Highland plays at 4PM on Friday in the Troy Tournament. The Lady Cougars have two more Saturday games.
Knox County scored one run on two hits and five errors. Lauren Dale was the losing hurler. Dale struck out six of her 33 batters faced with seven bases on balls in four innings pitched.
The Lady Eagles played better as the game went on, but allowed too many runs in the first three innings to beat a Clarence Cannon Conference team on the road with six returning starters.
"I think we had jitters in the first couple of innings," Knox County coach Becky Barnhill said. "I think all we will do is learn from this. We have a good team. They are just really young."
"We hit the ball well tonight. We just hit it right at them," Coach Barnhill said. "We got some good bunts laid down. We just couldn't get anything going. One error just led to another error."
"We just need to stay up mentally. They are going to have errors," Becky Barnhill said. "They are going to have to figure out how to bounce back from those errors. I hope most of them learned we can hit the ball."
Avery Johnson is an all conference and all district pitcher with an athletic team behind her. The Clarence Cannon Conference had two teams in the final four last season along with Knox County from the Tri-Rivers Conference.
"We are going to take what we saw tonight and work on it in practice tomorrow," Barnhill said. "We have to let these girls know to keep fighting. We will get there."
Knox County plays Marion County in the first round of the Monroe City Tournament this Saturday. The defending champion Lady Eagles are top seeded. The Highland JV made it a sweep, downing the Lady Mustang varsity 9-0 in the first game of a twin bill.