PICKERINGTON — The sixth seeded Highland Scots softball team looked like they might make a game of it at the start. In the end, however, the Scots’ season came to a crashing conclusion, as they wound up on the short end of a 13-2, 5-inning, run-rule shortened loss at the hands of the No. 5 seed Granville Blue Aces in their OHSAA Division II Central District semifinal matchup at Pickerington North High School on Tuesday afternoon.
The Scots were the first to take advantage of opportunity when Liz Jenson reached second on a two-base throwing error. Jenson scored on a single by teammate Haven Farson (1-for-2) to take an early 1-0 lead. Jenson reached base three times in the game, while only getting one base hit.
Highland pitcher Lucy Smith sailed through the first pair of innings, only allowing a walk. She retired seven of the first eight batters she faced, getting the first out of the third inning. After that, the game took a sudden and, for the Scots, ugly turn.
The Blue Aces marched 14 batters to the plate inning in the third inning, scoring nine runs on 11 hits. Only one of those hits — a 3-run home run by Ally Gilliam — went for extra bases. Teammate Sarah Lodge drove in a pair of runs with a single and scored in the third and so did Blue Aces’ starting pitcher Kaitlyn Brown, helping her own cause.
By the time Brown took her spot in the circle, in the bottom of the third inning, she and her teammates were enjoying a comfortable, 9-1 lead. Brown was tough all day, allowing only four hits and fanning seven Highland batters in her complete game, 5-inning stretch.
“We just couldn’t get our bats going, today,” said Highland coach Shelly Hornsby. “They were calling a lot of outside pitches, but you still have to be aggressive and learn where the umpire’s strike zone is. We didn’t pick up on that, so we struggled at the plate.”
In the bottom of the fourth, the Aces added four more runs — three of those runs were unearned. Granville loaded the bases against Highland relief pitcher Madison Peoples. After Granville’s Addy Hampton (2-3, three runs) drew an RBI walk, teammate Amber Gilliam (2-for-3, two runs) scored on a Brown pop up.
Things continued to get tough for the Scots. With Granville runners at second and third, Granville’s Shelby Armstrong (1-for-3) dashed home with a steal. In the process, the Scots attempted to get the runner at third. Not only was the runner safe, but Scots’ third baseman Morgan Wilhelm was hurt on the play and the runner also scored. Wilhelm was able to continue, but her teammate, shortstop Brooklyn Geiger, ended the inning, making a great grab while going back on a pop fly in shallow left-center. After making the catch, she fell backwards. Although she hung on to the ball to end the inning, her head hit the knee of oncoming Scots’ centerfielder Kaitlyn Carney.
“Brooklyn is very aggressive and works very hard,” Hornsby said. “I’m not surprised that she still came up with the catch on that one.”
There was a short delay as Geiger’s injury was tended to, but that and a solo homer in the top of the fifth by Highland’s Savannah Fitzpatrick only delayed the inevitable.
“When you get this far in the tournaments, you’ve got to start out on top,” Hornsby said. “You’ve got to start at that first inning and work your way through to the end.”