Highland softball team uses extra effort to complete sweep and win Classic championship

Highland softball

The Highland softball team won a pair of extra-inning games Saturday to capture the championship of the Francis Howell Central Classic in Cottleville, Mo. | Photo courtesy Amber Garner

COTTLEVILLE, Mo. — A pair of extra-inning victories Saturday enabled the Highland softball team to remain undefeated and capture the championship of the 13th annual Francis Howell Central Classic.

The Cougars scored seven runs in the top of the eighth inning to score a 14-7 victory over Westminster Christian and followed it by scoring a single run in the top of the eighth to outlast Francis Howell Central 9-8.

Those two victories came on the heels of two victories on Friday — 11-3 over Francis Howell Central and 9-0 against Warrenton.

Against Westminster Christian in the first game Saturday, Highland went to the sixth inning tied at 7 and got a pair of two-out singles from Keera Rothweiler and Addy Abell but couldn’t score. Westminster put two runners on in the bottom of the inning courtesy of walks, but both were stranded.

In the seventh, both teams went down in order.

Leading off the eighth inning, the Cougars’ Abby Lay reached on an error by the third baseman. A sacrifice bunt got Lay to second and she scored on Hannah Ritterbusch’s single up the middle. Rothweiler then singled, and after a foul popout, Emma Harschberger singled to right field to plate a run.

Haleigh Winter followed with a three-run home run to center field for a 12-7 advantage. Ritterbusch homered to center field three pitches later, Bailie Crist doubled and Lay drove her home with a single for the 14-7 lead.

Westminster got one runner on base in the bottom of the eighth, but Lay worked around it to preserve the victory. She worked three innings of relief, striking out four, walking two and allowing no hits or runs to earn the victory.

Abell went 3 for 5 with two solo home runs, while Harshberger went 3 for 4 with four runs scored and Winter finished 4 for 5 with four RBIs. Highland collected 17 hits overall with five home runs.

In the finale, Francis Howell Central scored six runs in the bottom of the first inning, but Highland responded and took an 8-7 lead after Harshberger homered with two outs in the top of the fifth. The Spartans tied the game with two outs in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single to center field by Isabelle Dunlap.

Highland came right back. Ritterbusch led off the top of the eighth with a single to center field, and one out later, stole second base, took third on an error and scored on Lay’s infield single. In the bottom of the eighth, Francis Howell Central collected back-to-back one-out singles before Harshberger struck out the final two batters to end the game.

Harshberger threw four innings of relief, allowing one unearned run and four hits while striking out four and walking three.

Lay went 3 for 3 with three RBIs, while Harshberger, Winter and Ritterbusch each had two hits.

In Friday’s two victories, Harshberger went a combined 4 for 8 with a double and a home run, while Lay went 4 for 8 with a double and a triple. Harshberger earned the victory against Francis Howell Central, while Lay struck out 14 in the victory against Warrenton.

The Cougars (6-0) open Clarence Cannon Conference play at home against Centralia at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday.

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