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Knoch softball completes sweep of Highlands

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Erica Dietz | for the Tribune Review
Knoch’s Celia Knappenberger delivers a pitch at Highlands High School on Thursday, April 21, 2016.

Knoch’s Jessi Reed picked a good time to hit her first home run of the season.

Reed’s two-run drive over the left-field fence in the top of the fifth inning gave the Knights the lead for good as Knoch broke a third-place tie in Section 5-AAA with a 5-2 victory.

The win also gave the Knights (10-2, 4-2) a season sweep of Highlands (6-4, 3-3). That means if the two teams end up tied for the third and final playoff berth from the section, Knoch will advance with the tiebreaker.

“We knew we beat them the first time, and we knew Highlands was a good team,” Knights coach Tim Knappenberger said. “We knew this was for a playoff spot and the girls came to play today.”

With the score knotted at 1-1, Sydney Natili led off the fifth with a double, one of three hits on the day for the junior second baseman. After a pop up to short, Reed followed with a blast into the parking lot beyond left field.

“That was her first home run, and she got all of that one,” Knappenberger said. “She’s a senior, I expect the seniors to rise to the occasion, and she did today.”

The Knights added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth for pitcher Celia Knappenberger (4-1). Taylor Lesseski led off with a double and scored on Chalee Durand’s sacrifice fly.

Knappenberger walked and scored on Natili’s single.

Highlands threatened in the bottom of the seventh. Tori Lohler doubled with one out and scored on Michaela Geracia’s triple to deep right. Knappenberger got the next two batters on ground outs to seal the victory.

“We really played good defense today, our hitting could have been better, but I didn’t think it was bad,” Highlands coach Jen Koprivnikar said. “I think that one home run kind of deflated us.”

Golden Rams right fielder Kylie Pometo prevented any further Knoch scoring early with two solid plays.

In the second, after Erin Luffy’s drive hit off the glove of the second baseman and rolled into right field, Pometo threw out Knappenberger sliding into third.

In the third with a Knights runner on second, Pometo grabbed Reed’s sinking liner to end the inning.

Highlands has been known for its hitting prowess this season, but Knappenberger allowed only two of eight baserunners to score.

“We were struggling with hitting for a while, then we went on a rampage,” Koprivnikar said. “We’re still hitting the ball, but we’re not grouping our hits. Against Mars the other day, we had 12 hits, but only scored four runs.”

After three scoreless innings Thursday, Knoch broke through as Luffy singled home Abigail Blank, who had singled.

Highlands answered in the bottom of the fourth when Lauren Torgent doubled, took third on a wild pitch and came home on Robin Cebula’s grounder to short.

After a trip to Blackhawk on Saturday morning for a nonsection encounter, the Golden Rams will return to section action with a crucial game Tuesday at Indiana.

Both teams have games left with section frontrunners Indiana and Mars, but Highlands likely must finish a game ahead of Knoch in the standings to make the playoffs.

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