Illinois

Highland Illinois Bulldogs Softball Team Ends 2023 Season

Hyland's junior pitcher Sophia Donohoe will pitch in the IHSA Class 3A Civic Memorial Regional Semifinal against Muscouta on Tuesday, May 23 at the Besalto Sports Complex. Donohoe helped the Bulldogs win the district championship, but the team lost in the section semifinals, ending the season with a record of 24-8-1.

Hyland’s junior pitcher Sophia Donohoe will pitch in the IHSA Class 3A Civic Memorial Regional Semifinal against Muscouta on Tuesday, May 23 at the Besalto Sports Complex. Donohoe helped the Bulldogs win the district championship, but the team lost in the section semifinals, ending the season with a record of 24-8-1.

For news readers

A slow start out of the gate threatened to sink the Highland softball team early this spring.

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But the Bulldogs righted the ship after eight games and turned in their third straight strong campaign with a 24-8-1 mark that included the team’s third straight Mississippi Valley Conference Championship and third consecutive regional championship.

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All things being equal, Highland coach Glenn Nicholls said he felt his club fared quite well.

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“I’d have to say they did a nice job,” Nicholls said. “We started the thing like 1-5-1 and to end up 24-8-1 was a pretty good run after the first seven, eight games.”

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HHS stumbled early getting off to a rocky 2-5-1 start but on April 8 split a doubleheader in the Belleville West Tournament, losing 7-4 and winning 2-0.

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Nicholls said he felt that weekend began the turnaround for the club as Highland reeled off a 14-game winning streak over the next three weeks which included victories over MVC rivals Mascoutah, Triad and Waterloo as well as Johnston City. The big key to the resurgence was the addition of junior starting pitcher Sophia Donoho, who was back in the circle after missing the first eight games due to a home-schooling conflict.

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“We kind of started the season with Sophia Donoho on the shelf not able to start the season with the team,” Nicholls said. “She actually came back that weekend of the Belleville West Tournament and after that, she was the difference maker when you break the season down from the start till when we got rolling. She ended up being 14-3 with a 2.77 ERA and we definitely gave Sophia run support when she got back to pitching, so the team was really solid then.”

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Highland proceeded to close the 2023 campaign with four-straight wins before taking down Mascoutah (12-2) on May 23 and Civic Memorial (12-9) on May 26 to win the IHSA Class 3A regional championship in Bethalto.

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At that point of the postseason, Nicholls was confident his club had another big run in the playoffs similar to the state championship push of 2021 and the Bulldogs’ super-sectional appearance in 2022.

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“The girls were definitely focused by the end of the season. When it got to the postseason the girls were excited and they really came to play in the first couple of regional games and I could see the fire in their eyes,” Nicholls said. “They wanted it and it was a pleasure to be around them.”

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Tough loss in sectional semifinals

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On May 31, Highland hosted the Class 3A sectional semifinals, and the Bulldogs’ bats and offense struggled against a solid and balanced Charleston team. The Blue Jays grabbed an early lead and held the HHS offense to just four hits, ending Highland’s postseason run early with a 5-0 shutout loss.

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“They jumped on us for three runs in the first inning and played a little bit of small ball to get out of the gate and we didn’t execute. We should have gotten a couple of outs and we didn’t make a couple of (defensive) plays we should have made,” Nicholls said. “We ended up playing catch-up the whole game and we totally thought we were going to catch up and break it open at some point, but they played pretty good defense and their pitcher did a nice job of moving the ball in and out (of the strike zone).”

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It was a tough and tearful end to the season, but as Nicholls reflected on the end of the campaign, he gave glowing praise to his talented senior group of Maggie Grohmann (first base), Maddie Trauernicht (third base), Kelly Fuller (catcher), Maci Miles (right field), and Karli Dant (second base). That group helped HHS go 27-3 in MVC play the past three seasons with three conference championships, a Class 3A state championship, three regional championships, two sectional titles, and a Class 3A super-sectional appearance.

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“Those five girls, winning state as sophomores on a team that went 25-1 and following that season up going 22-10 and making it to super-sectionals as juniors and as juniors … four or five of those girls were starters on that team,” Nicholls said. “It’s hard (to say goodbye) when you’ve got five kids and they’re all starters and there were a lot of tears shed that day — they weren’t ready for that to end. These five girls were a big part of what Highland softball has been about the last few years.”

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Nicholls steps down

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The five seniors will not be the only ones leaving the program. After eight seasons at Highland — the past five seasons as head coach — Nicholls is leaving HHS and looking to spend more time with his family.

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“That was the final announcement I had at our (end-of-season banquet June 7). I thanked all the players and families for the support and told them it was a pleasure and an honor to represent Highland High School the last eight years, but it’s gotten to the point where the time is right and my softball glove is worn out,” Nicholls said.

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Nicholls said that at this point he has no plans to continue coaching club softball this summer and since his wife recently retired from work, he is looking forward to traveling this summer with his family.

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“My wife recently retired and I haven’t had a lot of summer vacations with my family because of traveling with softball all the time. This summer will actually be the first summer I haven’t had a summer team in 20 years, so that’s kind of where I’m at,” Nicholls said.

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In addition, Nicholls will stay involved with his club team, the Black Widows, as a member of the executive board.



https://www.bnd.com/news/local/community/highland-news-leader/article276133111.html Highland Illinois Bulldogs Softball Team Ends 2023 Season

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