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Waterloo knocks off Highland to get a leg up on conference softball title

The end of a key Mississippi Valley Conference softball matchup left the Waterloo Bulldogs with a decided advantage in the race to a regular-season championship.

Highland fell four runs behind a potent Waterloo lineup after one inning and couldn’t close the ground. Waterloo went on to post an 8-0 conference victory at home.

It was a sobering outcome for Highland (10-9, 5-3) which dropped its third straight game and its second MVC contest in a week.

“They got their bats going real early right out of the gate and that’s tough to go against anybody that does that,” Highland coach Chris Nikonovich said. “That’s two games in a row we’ve had four run (on us) in the first inning and when you start a game out like that its tough.”

Waterloo (20-5, 6-2) came out hot with the bats cracking against Highland starter Katelyn Wilson. Waterloo struck for four runs in the bottom of the first inning.

Mia Miller’s RBI-single made it 1-0 and then with to more runners on, senior infielder Maddie Gummersheimer ripped s 2-run double to right field pushing the lead to 3-0.

Freshman Grayce Mayer’s run-scoring single to right capped the first-inning surge for a quick 4-0 advantage.

“We were very pleased with the way we swung the bats today and we had not swung the bats that well all season,” Waterloo coach Matt Mason said. The girls were going a good job at the plate of hitting strikes and we’re proud of our effort at the plate of course.”

Waterloo effectively put the game away in the bottom of the fourth with another four-run rally.

Jensyn Collmeyer singled home a run and a two-run double by Miller down the right field line and an RBI-single by Samantha Juelfs extended the margin to 8-0.

That gave Miller plenty all she needed in the circle as she silenced the Highland bats with another top-shelf effort. Miller gave up just three hits in getting the shutout victory.

Miller, who sports a 1.10 ERA, went the distance to pick up her 12th win of the season.

“We did have a couple of errors (defensively) but Mia was able to pitch around them and we were grateful for that,” Mason said.

Mason believes that his team is playing well and well positioned to win the conference and potentially do well in the postseason in two weeks . “There are a couple of more games we have left in conference against two really good teams, so it’s not over yet,” Mason said. We hope so, and we’ll try to go as far as we can,”.

Meanwhile, after scoring just four runs in its last three games, Highland is looking to find its hitting mojo again.

“I think it’s one of those things where we have to refocus our attention and get our bats back in gear and that way, we can back Katelyn out there on that mound,” Nikonovich said.

Lucy Becker, Alex Schultz, and Wilson all recorded base hits.

Highland is back in action on Friday against Columbia at 5 p.m., in the Triad Tournament.

“This loss will get their attention and refocus them and they will get back to having that grit we had earlier in the season,” Nikonovich said.