Highland quells Lone Tree’s surge for a first round win

By TJ Rhodes
Posted 7/3/23

The Highland Huskies hosted the Lone Tree Lady Lions in round one of class 1A region 8 playoff action on Friday, June 30. The Huskies would take the win and run away with it, 9-3. They’ll take …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Highland quells Lone Tree’s surge for a first round win


The Highland Huskies hosted the Lone Tree Lady Lions in round one of class 1A region 8 playoff action on Friday, June 30. The Huskies would take the win and run away with it, 9-3. They’ll take on Wapello, a tough conference foe in round two, Wednesday, July 5, on the road. 

For Lone Tree and Highland, the two teams faced off a week prior on Highland’s senior night, a much larger victory for the Huskies, a 10-0 mercy rule ending for the home team. 

The Lady Lions came prepared for battle. Leading off for the team is sophomore Vivian Zaruba who brings inherent speed. With Highland’s Jessica Kraus on the mound, Zaruba led things off with a single. Zaruba whirled around the bases, stealing second and third. A bad throw to third base allowed Zaruba to steal home, opening Lone Tree’s night with a run.

Highland was prepared to return the favor. 

Leading off for Highland is none other than junior Sarah Burton. Burton’s speed equates to a lightning strike, now you see her, now you don’t.

An infield single led things off for Highland. Burton then stole second and third base with little threat of being caught. Burton has 33 steals all season and has yet to be caught.

Despite Burton’s effort, the batters behind her ended the inning with Burton stranded at third. 

Starting in the second, Kraus found her bearings, sitting the Lady Lions down, one two three.

Highland took notes and scored a similar run to Lone Tree’s in the bottom of the second to tie it. Senior MyLei Smith walked, stole second and third. An overthrow to third allowed Smith to stroll home, tying the game. 

After Kraus retired the side in the third, the Highland bats began to awake on Lone Tree sophomore Alex Dautremont. Burton hit a single to lead off the inning. Burton stole second. Sophomore Lilly Barre walked and so did senior Abbi Stransky, loading the bases. A sacrifice ground out by junior Abigail Pierson scored Burton and gave Highland their first lead of the night. They would not give up the lead again. 

An error by the Lone Tree defense allowed two more runners to cross the plate, giving Highland the 4-1 lead. 

Lone Tree made a valiant effort in the fourth inning to reclaim the lead. Sophomore Kayleigh Rundlett struck a ball to the right field fence, almost homering. Dautremont walked and both batters were replaced with pinch runners. 

After freshman Delanie Graap stole second, freshman Ava Christofferson decided to steal home when the pick-off throw came in wide. Burton made a throw home that was off the mark, allowing Christofferson to score without a slide. Following this, sophomore Rylee Shield hit a sacrificial ground out, bringing Lone Tree to within one. 

Junior Hogan Eden dropped a hit into right field and sophomores Cate Sexton and Haley Bockelman walked for Lone Tree, prompting Highland head coach Carrie Wieland to replace Kraus who was hitting a Lone Tree wall in the fourth.

“I think [Jessica] did a really good job. She just gets really hot, so with the humidity high, [she] can’t hold onto the ball, so we’re going to make adjustments,” Wieland said. 

With the bases loaded, Highland junior Grace Prybil came in and faced Lone Tree eighth grader Abby Zaruba. Zaruba battled, fouling off pitch after pitch before lining out to end the inning. 

“Grace came in and did an excellent job. Jessica is more of a strikeout pitcher and Grace is more of a ‘put the ball into play’ pitcher. We like ground balls; we like to play defense,” Wieland said.

Now just down by one, Lone Tree’s game plan was to stall the Highland bats by replacing Dautremont with eighth grader Abby Zaruba in the bottom of the fourth, and it worked for a while. Zaruba got out of a sticky situation to leave the fourth inning still down by one. Wieland commended Lone Tree head coach Jovonte Squiers for this personnel change and the immediate effect it had on Highland.

“Game plan, go through the lineup twice and then change speeds a little bit. [Alex and I] talked about it and she was like ‘I like this idea.’ And sure enough, did exactly what it needed to do,” Squiers said.”

It wouldn’t be until the sixth inning before Highland finally figured out Zaruba. An apparent scorned enemy of the Lady Lion’s infield defense was the bunt and Highland took advantage. Senior Katelyn Waters led off with a single and Burton laid down a bunt. With infield confusion, Burton made way to second. Barre followed with a bunt and a bad throw allowed both runners to score. 

Then, junior Payton Brun laid down a bunt and beat the throw to first base with Barre rounding the bases. Highland loaded the bases and two consecutive wild pitches scored two more. A third wild pitch by Zaruba resulted in the final out of the inning after Highland’s Prybil hesitated and Lone Tree’s Rundlett dove at the plate to tag Prybil out.

In the top of the seventh, the Lady Lions had a herculean task ahead: score six to tie or seven to take the lead. Lone Tree instead would only garner one base runner due to a hit by pitch. Lone Tree’s season ends but it was a promising season and one the team can build on for the future. It’s been stated before, but they have no seniors meaning that they could plate the same team next year, with additional experience.

For Highland, the journey continues. They must face Wapello on the road, a team closely resembling their own. Highland lost on the Wapello diamond earlier this season and hope for redemption.