GRANGER TWP. — Every time the Green softball team tried to put the squeeze on Highland, the Hornets were able to wiggle free.
Ironically, a gutsy call by Highland coach Nick Spirtos gave the Hornets a 6-5 Suburban League victory on a Wednesday where his squad learned how to survive and win.
After giving up five runs in two innings, Highland (1-1, 1-0) loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh before heady baserunning by Amanda Schniegenberg sent the Hornets home happy.
With Alexandria Chorba up, Spirtos called for a suicide squeeze on the first pitch. The offering from Addy Moro (0-1) sailed high, leaving Chorba with no opportunity to put the ball in play.
Schniegenberg was coming full barrel toward home and hesitated. But when Madison Summers made a snap throw to third, the senior went into a dead sprint and easily beat the throw back home for the winning run.
“Coach told her to bunt, and all I knew was I was sprinting home,” Schniegenberg said. “I didn’t care where the ball was going. When she tried to throw down to three when I was almost home, I wasn’t stopping.”
Neither were the Hornets, who had an answer every time the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-2) made things interesting.
Afforded a four-run lead in the sixth inning, Highland kicked the ball around the infield and Green tied things, with three of its runs coming via the unearned variety.
The Hornets bounced back with a run of their own in the bottom of the frame, but gave it right back when Abigail Mowrer hit a home run over the left-field fence in the seventh.
Green put runners on first and second with two outs after that and appeared to have all the momentum, but freshman Samantha Kainec came on in relief of Leegan Vorndran and got Cheyenne Miller to pop up on the first pitch.
“She’s 5-foot-10 and for being 14 years old, she never looked nervous,” Spirtos said. “She throws the ball and throws hard. I can’t wait to see her when she’s a senior.
“I told her to forget the crowd and forget the runners on the field. Throw one strike at a time and keep it off the backstop. She threw one pitch and that was it.”
The Hornets used that momentum to pick up their first win of the season.
“It means a lot, especially since we’re so young, to be that resilient,” said Hornets catcher Kelley Cejer, who had two doubles and two RBIs. “We never gave up and that was a great learning experience for us. Even though we got down, we couldn’t let it be all mental and let it get in our heads. We could come back when we wanted to.”
The win, coupled with a close season-opening loss to returning state semifinalist Walsh Jesuit, has Highland rolling with confidence as it heads into an SL game with Revere today.
“We made a lot of mistakes as a team, but they paid attention and stuck together and made the plays when they had to,” Spirtos said. “We’ll have a good team. Nothing will be easy for us. We just need to stay focused. This win is confidence going into Revere. It’s an emotional game that will pay dividends when we play for real, for real being the end of the season.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.