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By David Sharp
Highland (9-14) took a two run first inning lead in October 7, 2021 non-conference varsity softball play at Highland and powered to an 11-4 win over Knox County. Highland junior Payton Miller tossed her third game in as many days. Miller went the seven inning distance with seven strikeouts and one walk on six hits.
Junior Payton Miller’s two RBI double in the fifth inning was her 19th double of the season, tying the Highland single season doubles record and setting a new school record for career two base hits.
“We just pulled it all together today,” Payton Miller said. “It just all came together when it had to. We played better as a team than we did yesterday. We know these girls of course. They are close family.”
“It was going to be a fun ball game from the start. I thought I just tied (the career doubles record). I didn’t know I broke it,” Payton Miller said. It is absolutely crazy. When they gave me this ball, I was so shocked. It’s just an amazing feeling to be with those incredible ladies. I am really proud of myself.”
“It was a good ball game,” Payton Miller said.
Emma Harshberger led off the Highland first inning with a double. Payton Miller bunted Harshberger home with the game’s first run. Haleigh Winter followed with a home run over the fence for a 2-0 Cougar lead after the first inning of play.
Ashley Kaylor started off the Highland second inning with a double. Abby Becker took a hit away from Sydney Sedelmeier with a nice catch in right field for out number one. Daniela Dooley struck out a batter for the second out of the Highland second inning.
Hannah Mead gave Highland a three run lead with a two out, RBI hit scoring Ashley Kaylor. Emma Harshberger walked. Daniela Dooley got a fly ball to Savannah Schrage in left field for the final out.
The Lady Eagles got on the board in their fourth inning. Jen Hinkle led off the top half of inning four with a base hit. Daniela Dooley drew an error, scoring Hinkle for a 3-1 Highland lead after four complete innings.
Knox County saw their fifth inning end when a runner was called out for interference at second base. Highland padded their lead with a five run fifth inning. Hannah Mead led off the frame with a base hit.
Emma Harshberger grounded into a fielder’s choice. An infield error gave the Lady Cougars an extra out. Harshberger and Mikayla Dreyer crossed the plate when Payton Miller doubled with one out.
Haleigh Winter reached on an error. Play became a bit ragged when Miller was tagged out around third base after Winter raced to third base, putting two runners on the same base.
A walk and a fielders choice set up Sydney Sedelmeyer for a two out bases clearing double and an 8-1 Cougar lead after five complete innings.
Payton Miller retired the top two batters in Knox County’s order at the start of the Lady Eagle sixth inning. Brianna Miller started a two out rally with a base hit. Taylor Walker popped a two out, RBI double.
Baila Miller delivered another two out RBI hit for an 8-3 tally after five and a half innings of play. Highland put together a two out rally in their sixth inning. Mikayla Dreyer was hit by a pitch. Dreyer stole second base. Payton Miller stroked an RBI single. Haleigh Winter belted a two run homer, her second home run of the game over the fence for an 11-3 Highland lead. ”It definitely hit the sweet spot on the bat,” Haleigh Winter told the Lewis County Star.
“I tend to hit high pitches, but not usually that good. It was definitely up,” Haleigh Winter said of her sixth inning two run homer.
Abby Becker started off another two out rally with a Knox County seventh inning hit. Jen Hinkle drove an RBI double. A fly ball to Mikayla Dreyer in center field ended the game with Highland prevailing by an 11-4 final score.
Knox County scored four runs on six hits and two errors. Defensive bobbles contributed to the Eagle defeat. Jen Hinkle was 2-4 at bat with a run scored and another batted in.
Taylor Walker and Baila Miller had a hit and an RBI each. Daniela Dooley struck out two batters in six innings pitched. Dooley walked two batters on ten hits. Six of 11 runs charged to the Eagle hurler were earned.
“We have to play defense,” Knox County coach Lauren Dale said. “It’s been our Achilles heel all year. We have to make a decision. Now we are at the point where we are going to do or die.”
“You survive and go on to another game. You lose and you are done,” Lauren Dale said of the upcoming district competition. This was Knox County’s final regular season game.
The fourth seeded Lady Eagles are scheduled to play fifth seed Marion County at the October 13, 2021 Canton Class 1 softball district in first round play. The Canton district is scheduled to play from October 13-16.
Highland scored 11 runs on ten hits and one error. Payton Miller was 2-3 for the Lady Cougars with four runs batted in and a run scored. Haleigh Winter was 2-4 at bat with two runs scored and three batted in. Ashley Kaylor was 2-3 with two runs scored and another batted in.
Hannah Mead was 2-3 at the plate with an RBI. Payton Miller pitched the seven inning distance with seven strikeouts, one walk on six hits. Three of the four runs charged to the Cougar starter were earned.
“It was a great effort tonight,” Highland coach Paul Scifres said. “It was a lot better to win.” Conference rival Monroe City downed Highland by a 6-5 final score the previous day. Highland was charged with five or more errors on the day. Monroe City was voted the top seed at the Class 2 district tournament at Palmyra.
Palmyra is the second seeded district team and Highland is third. “We had a lot of good at bats. We put some bunts down early,” Paul Scifres said. “Payton (Miller) did a good job again, pitching three days in a row in the circle.”
“She has thrown three really good games,” Coach Scifres said. The (Monroe City game) was a tough luck loss because we didn’t play great defense behind her. Tonight, the girls came out to play. We had some bit at bats. Some big runs. It was good to get a win.”
“To me, that’s always the fun part,” Paul Scifres said of the familiarity between Highland and Knox County student/athletes, their families and supporters. “The kids play on different, and the same teams in the summer. There is a lot of relation. It’s fun. The girls have fun playing against each other. It is a friendly competition that we really enjoy.”