West Mifflin softball freezes out Highlands

Monday, May 1, 2023 | 8:34 PM

West Mifflin and Highlands faced off Monday in a key Section 1-4A softball game, but there was an extra opponent each team had to navigate.

The elements.

Rain, cold temperatures and gusty winds combined to make it feel like March instead of the first day of May, but both teams battled through, and a big inning by the Titans was the difference.

West Mifflin scored six runs in the bottom of the second and went on to keep its section title hopes alive in an 11-2 win.

As the rain persisted, the game was called and made official with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.

With the score tied 2-2 after one, the Titans took advantage of some small ball and miscues in the second to send 10 batters to the plate.

The inning started with a strikeout by Rylie Dobnak, but she reached first on a wild pitch. Aubrey Jaskulski attempted to sacrifice Dobnak to second but reached on a fielding error. Then, after Trinity Tewell reached on a bunt single to load the bases, Samantha Tomko came through with a two-run single up the middle.

Addie Hilligsberg and Caleigh Ignat added singles that drove in runs.

“We lucked out with a couple bunts and were able to generate some offense that way,” West Mifflin coach Erik Hilligsberg said. “Each game is different. It worked out for us. We were just trying to move runners over and ended up scoring six runs that inning.”

The game started off well for Highlands. Two walks and a single loaded the bases and a one-out single by Abbie Deiseroth gave the Golden Rams a 2-0 lead.

“Our message to the girls today was to control what they could control,” Highlands coach Kasey Wolford said. “Obviously you can’t control the weather, so we just told them to do the things we have worked on in practice and keep going.”

Deiseroth’s single was the last hit for Highlands. Hilligsberg allowed only two runners after the first, and one of those was on an error. The other came via a walk.

Hilligsberg finished with eight strikeouts and hit a two-run homer over the center-field fence in the bottom of the first that tied the score 2-2.

“She was having trouble gripping the ball in the first inning, but she said it was fine after that,” coach Hilligsberg said. “She settled down and pitched a good game considering the elements today.”

West Mifflin tacked on three more runs in the fifth, highlighted by an RBI double by Aurora Russo, before the game was called.

Highlands (3-10, 3-6) still has a shot at making the playoffs. The Golden Rams are a game behind McKeesport for fourth place but split with the Tigers in the regular season. If Highlands beats Indiana in the section finale and McKeesport loses to West Mifflin, both teams will advance to the playoffs.

Highlands is scheduled to host Indiana on Wednesday, weather permitting.

West Mifflin (11-3, 7-2) is slated to play McKeesport on Tuesday. If the Titans win that game and first-place Knoch (7-6, 6-1) loses one of its final three games, the two teams will share the section crown.

Another scenario for a split section title is if West Mifflin loses to McKeesport and Knoch loses two of its last three games.

“We only control what we can control,” Coach Hilligsberg said. “We need to take care of business the rest of the way and whatever happens, happens.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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