The Highland softball starting lineup has turned into a perfect mix of youth and seniority, with team chemistry between their five seniors mixed in with a pair of eighth-graders and a freshman starting to build.
It wasn’t smooth sailing from the start, but now Highland has won eight of their last 10 with some strong contributions from their young players.
The young players making a mark for Highland include eighth-graders Dani Laughlin and Abbi Stransky, both outfielders, and freshman Mackinze Hora starting full time behind the plate.
“The older girls have helped us a ton with self-confidence and boosting us up. Even if we make an error, they call a timeout and let us know that we’re fine,” Hora said.
The younger players have done more than just fill spots in a lineup though. Laughlin has moved into the leadoff spot and has a team-high batting average of .456 with 31 hits on the season. She also has a team-high 16 stolen bases.
Stransky is hitting .333 and has a pair of doubles and a home run this season.
Hora has been a wall behind the plate, making only one error in 119 opportunities this season. She’s also hitting .286 this season at the plate.
Mix that with returning All-State shortstop Aly Stokes, and other seniors like Abbie Miller, Sarah Schneider and Megan Hoenig and it seems that Highland has found a recipe for success.
Highland’s other regular starters have been sophomores Jenna Sands at second base and Ellie Anderson at first.
“The seniors have stepped up and this is probably the nicest group of seniors that I’ve had in a long time,” Highland coach Carrie Wieland said. “They really want to win and want others to be successful.”
She said sometimes the senior players have gone above and beyond, taking every opportunity possible to build up the younger players.
“Every single time we come off defensively Aly Stokes is saying, ‘good pitch Megan, nice catch Dani’ and is probably over the top with the younger kids to make them feel good.”
The younger girls have also been keeping up with each other according to Hora, as she said stepping into a starting role as an eighth-grader can bring some anxiety.
“I make sure they’re fine because playing last year (as an eighth-grader) was very nerve-wracking,” Hora said. “I understand what they’re going through so I talk to them to make sure they’re okay.”
The Huskies are hoping this mix of players will help them as they head into regional play soon. The Huskies open up with Van Buren at home on July 10 and with a win a potential matchup against a ranked Wilton squad on July 12.
Huskies dominate Mepo
Highland closed out their SEISC North schedule with an 11-0 win over Mediapolis.
Senior Abbie Miller went 3-3 at the plate and drove in three runs, bringing her to 45 RBIs this season. That breaks the single season mark and brings her to 146 in her career.
The 45 RBIs this season breaks the previous mark of 43 set by Bailey Walsh set in 2014.
Megan Hoenig was the winning pitcher, throwing a shutout and striking out seven.
Emily Yahnke and Mackinze Hora drove in two runs each.
Shalyn Kirk took advantage of her only at-bat, hitting a home run in the fourth.
Highland outscored Mediapolis 21-0 in their two games this season.
Huskies split at Alburnett
Highland went 1-1 in a weekend classic at Alburnett High School.
They beat the host Alburnett squad 10-0 in six innings with 10 runs on 10 hits.
Dani Laughlin and Abbie Miller both went 3-4 on the day. Emily Yahnke added a pair of hits and both Abbi Stransky and Jenna Sands had one hit each.
Megan Hoenig was the winning pitcher.
They lost a 7-4 game against Bondurant-Farrar. After taking a 4-2 lead in the second, they gave up five runs in the fifth to give up the lead.
Highland only had two hits in the game with Laughlin and Miller each having one.
Grace Batcheller and Shalyn Kirk pitched in the loss.