HIGHLAND | First-year Highland coach Erin Zeller has been preaching to her team all season long about finishing games and executing when opportunities present themselves.
With their season on the line, the Trojans did exactly what Zeller had in mind in a 9-8 win in nine innings over Lowell in a semifinal game of the Class 4A Highland Sectional. The Trojans (8-17) advanced into today's 11 a.m. championship game against Lake Central, which defeated E.C. Central 10-0 in five innings.
With an 8-8 tie in the top of the ninth, Highland's Brittany Renninger reached base via an error before Tiffany Morton connected on a double that drove in Renninger.
"It was my pitch and I zoned in on it and just stayed down on it," Morton said. "It felt good to help my team out when they needed it."
With a one-run cushion, Trojans freshman pitcher Brittany Fowler gave up two hits in the bottom of the ninth, but fought through it to earn the win.
"It feels awesome that I got to experience this with my sister (Brooke), who's a senior," Fowler said.
Brittany Fowler entered the game in the fourth frame and displayed the composure of a veteran. In 5 1/3 innings of work, she allowed just one run.
"Brittany really just executed everywhere," Zeller said. "On the mound, I couldn't tell she was a freshman. She held it together very well."
Highland was down 8-5 going into the top of the sixth, due in part to two-run homers from Carley Austgen and Mackenzie Kreutz. However, the Trojans took advantage of four Lowell fielding errors in the bottom of the inning and forged a tie.
The Red Devils (9-21) were charged with a total of eight errors.
In the nightcap, Lake Central built a 9-0 lead after one inning. The Indians (26-5) used mainly bench players while holding the Cardinals without a hit or baserunner.
Earlier this season, L.C. beat Highland 5-2. Indians coach Jeff Sherman is expecting the same kind of competitive game this time around.
"Playing on Highland's field, I expect them to bring a lot of intensity," Sherman said. "I always don't like playing teams on their home field during the postseason because they have that home-field advantage. I expect a battle."