Indiana wins softball section finale vs. Highlands in extra innings

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Monday, May 8, 2023 | 9:51 PM


The Highlands softball team had its back against the wall in a must-win situation as it hosted Indiana in its Section 1-4A finale Monday afternoon.

The Golden Rams controlled their own destiny for a WPIAL playoff spot, but they had to win.

The Indians led by five runs in the bottom of the seventh and were on the cusp of finishing off the victory.

But that’s when Highlands’ bats erupted for five runs on four hits to tie the score and send it into extra innings.

Indiana, however, recovered from the Golden Rams rally to score three times in the top of the ninth en route to an 8-5 victory.

“It was going on really smooth for us for a while, but Highlands is a really scrappy team and they got the runs when they needed them,” Indiana coach Harold Wilson said.

“Our pitcher (Liv Zimmerman) was getting a little tired there in the seventh, and then their pitcher, I think, was getting a little tired in the ninth. We did a really nice job of getting the runs to get the win. It was a really good game. Both games between the teams were.”

Indiana, which improved to 13-4 overall and finished section play at 7-3, also won the first meeting at Indiana on April 14. That game also was a nail biter as the Indians won it 5-4 in walk-off fashion.

Highlands concluded its section slate at 3-7 and fell to 4-11 overall.

The Golden Rams cap their season over the next two days with road contests at Apollo-Ridge on Tuesday and at Hampton on Wednesday.

“This one is tough, definitely, but the girls shouldn’t hang their heads because they played a great game,” Highlands coach Kasey Wolford said. “We now want to come out the next couple days and finish as strong as we can. We’re always building as a family.”

Indiana, which finished with 14 hits off of Highlands sophomore starter Madison Gorney, got its offense going in the ninth with one out.

Sophomore shortstop Maggie Cunningham started the rally with a bloop to Golden Rams sophomore shortstop Carrah Scardina, who extended forward and had the ball in her glove before it popped out when the glove made contact with the ground.

Zimmerman was up next, and she singled to put two runners on.

Junior catcher Haley Hamilton followed with a single to score Cunningham with the go-ahead run. Freshman Hannah Ianarelli, pinch running for Zimmerman, moved to third.

A steal attempt of second by Hamilton prompted a throw by Golden Rams senior catcher Kassidy Cambal, and Ianarelli took off for home. Scardina, who caught the throw down from Cambal, threw back to Cambal for a play at the plate.

Cambal was not able to handle the throw, and Ianarelli scored to extend the Indiana lead to 7-5.

Senior third baseman Chloe McHugh then capped the scoring in the inning with a single to score Hamilton.

“Maddie pitched a great game against a really strong lineup,” Wolford said of Gorney, who struck out seven and walked one. Of the eight Indiana runs, six were earned.

“She came back with strikeouts, and she trusted the defense behind her to make plays and pick her up.”

Highlands, needing another comeback, got a runner on in the bottom of the ninth as Gorney doubled with one out.

She moved to third on a flyout to right by senior Abbie Dieseroth but was left stranded when Indiana reliever Addie Stossel struck out junior Jocelyn Scardina to end the game.

Stossel, a sophomore, spelled Zimmerman to start the eighth and gave up three hits and struck out one to earn the win.

Highlands got back-to-back singles from senior Nahia Megats and sophomore Makenzie George to start the eighth, but a fielder’s choice, a flyout to center and a grounder to short left both runners stranded.

“Addie came on in a tight situation and did a great job,” Wilson said. “She made some big pitches, and the defense made some plays behind her.”

Indiana scored twice in the second, once in the fifth and two more times in the seventh to lead 5-0.

Zimmerman, who won the first meeting with Highlands in relief, got the start and had a no-hitter going through two outs in the fifth before Cambal singled to put two runners on.

Zimmerman finished with 12 strikeouts and four walks and limited the Golden Rams to two hits through six.

Highlands left seven on base through six innings and had a runner reach second in the third, fifth and sixth.

George struck out to lead off the bottom of the seventh for the Golden Rams, but senior Rachel Kline reached on an error to set the stage for the five-run rally.

With freshman Mallory Zendarski pinch running for Kline, senior catcher Kassidy Cambal singled to put two on.

Sophomore Bailey Megats, who struck out in each of her first three at-bats, knocked Zendarski in with a single.

Carrah Scardina doubled to plate Cambal and Bailey Megats to make it 5-3 before Gorney crushed a home run over the right-field fence to tie the score.

“For them to come back the way they did says a lot about the character of the girls,” Wolford said. “We always tell them to control what they can control. We had an opportunity to keep the game going in the seventh, and they didn’t quit. The game is not over until it is over, and they came out there with a lot of fight.

“I was very proud of the girls for not giving up.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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