No. 6 Highland sweeps 'Hounds

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Fort Scott pitcher Cassie Sharon throws to a Highland batter during the first game of a doubleheader at the Betty Ruth Willard Complex Tuesday afternoon. Sharon struck out 5 batters and also aided her own cause with a fourth-inning home run but Highland prevailed in 9 innings 4-1 and took the second game 9-3. (Kenny Felt/Captured Images)

For eight innings Tuesday afternoon, Fort Scott Community College's softball team stood toe-to-toe with the sixth-ranked team in NJCAA Division II.

But visiting Highland scored three times in the top of the ninth inning of the opener and went on to win 4-1, then took the second game from the Greyhounds, 9-3, at the Betty Ruth Willard Complex.

All of the Jayhawk Conference-Eastern Division teams plus Brown Mackie and Hesston are in Division II, so the results also count toward post-season seeding.

The Greyhounds (4-10 East, 8-23 overall) had trouble with Highland pitcher Chenxi Jiao's riseball, a pitch that looks tempting when it's first released but then rises up to eye level as it crosses the plate. It was hard to resist swinging at it and that contributed to a 20-strikeout total for the sophomore from China.

Highland (13-1, 24-4) went in front in the top of the fourth inning on a solo home run over the left-center field fence by Tayler Nave. But Fort Scott pitcher Cassie Sharon aided her own cause with a solo homer to center in the bottom of the inning.

Sharon struck out only 5 batters but walked just one and relied on her defense. The Greyhounds turned two double plays and only three of the 27 outs that Highland hit into were in the outfield.

The Scotties got a runner to third with one out in the top of the seventh inning but couldn't get her home as Sharon induced a pop up to third base and a grounder to second to get out of the inning.

Trisha Stone looped a one-out flair over the second baseman's head in the bottom of the seventh. Jiao escaped trouble by getting a pop up and a strikeout.

Highland went down in order in the top of the eighth. BryAnna Birk led off the eighth with a single up the middle. Sharon dropped a ball just shy of the left-fielder's effort with one out. But Jiao struck out the last two batters.

Highland used 4 hits, a sacrifice bunt and an error to score 3 runs in the top of the ninth. Jiao stuck out Allison Cates for the first out in the bottom of the inning but Stone and Maddie Koch followed up with consecutive singles. Stone hustled to third on the hit and Koch got to second on the throw back from the outfield to third.

But Jiao got her 19th and 20th strikeouts of the game to kill the rally and preserve the victory for Highland.

Birk, Sharon, Stone and Koch each had 2 his for the 'Hounds, who had 9 hits off Jiao. The only batter she walked was the first batter of the game.

Sharon allowed 6 hits, 2 of which were from Nave's bat. She drove in 2 runs and scored twice.

Highland's bats got 3 hits in the first inning of the second game off Samantha Oxford but the Scotties only managed to score one run. Two more runs went up in the top of the third to make it 3-0.

Aubrie Duvall led off the bottom of the third by drawing a walk off Zuzana Kudernatschova, a sophomore from the Czech Republic. Megan Feldman bunted for a hit and Courtney Borland followed up with a one-out single to score Duvall.

Feldman scored on a passed ball. Sharon drew a walk and Borland scored on Stone's fielder's choice, tying the game at 3-3.

Highland reclaimed the lead in the top of the fourth as Nave hit another solo homer. The Scotties went on to score 5 times in the top of the sixth, 4 coming on a Megan Dortch grand slam over the left-field fence.

Highland had 16 hits in the game. Eight Scotties had 2 hits each. Oxford walked one and struck out one.

Burk was the only Greyhound with 2 hits. Kudernatschova pitched into the fifth inning, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6. Jiao came back into the circle during the fifth and allowed only 2 hits while striking out 3.

The Greyhounds will host Kansas City this afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Betty Ruth Willard Complex. This is the fourth different date that this doubleheader has been scheduled, the first three either rained out or postponed due to unplayable field conditions. The doubleheader will also count in division play and toward district seeding.

After today's games, the 'Hounds won't be home again until April 19 when they will host Neosho County. The next day, they will conclude a suspended doubleheader with Cloud County that was stopped by thunderstorms on March 19. Unless Fort Scott hosts a first-round playoff series, the games on the 20th will be their final home games of the season.

Game One

Highland............. 000 100 003 -- 4 6 0

Fort Scott........... 000 100 000 -- 1 9 3

WP -- Jiao. LP -- Sharon.

HR -- Highland: Nave (4th inn., none on, 1 out). Fort Scott: Sharon (4th inn., none on, none out).

Game Two

Highland................ 102 105 0 -- 9 16 1

Fort Scott............... 003 000 0 -- 3 6 2

WP -- Kudernatschova. LP -- Oxford. Sv. -- Jiao.

HR -- Highland: Nave (4th inn., none on, 1 out), Dortch (6th inn., 3 on, 1 out).